Sloshing: Trauma, Memory, & Blurting

In the grand scheme of things, nothing I do or don’t do is of any value. I am not a young military engineer sacrificing myself for my country in the destruction of a strategic bridge. I am not a nurse or doctor saving lives in some COVID-19 ward. Nor am I on the wrong sides of either of those equations; I don’t actively try to destroy life.

I am neither the activist screaming for change, nor the bloated capitalist determined to keep his millions a day earned on the backs of those he treats shamefully. I neither build nor destroy. I exist.

My life is perhaps one of the most meaningless lives on this planet. I am merely a vessel for memory and the shreds of hope left in the wake of leaving a life locked in a Hardie plank box. I have flashes of goals—flickers so brief they could be illusions like the sparkles you see when you press your eyelids hard against your eyes.

I have moments when I believe the ember of love remaining for the wrong man can someday regenerate for someone new — moments quickly smothered when I see behavior in men that mirrors that of one of my exes.

Through it all, I am struck by my memory—how in one instance it is hazy and fragile, the next, in sharp focus and fully formed.

I understand the whys; in one space the memories are the fog of trauma and reaction while in another they are the unforgettable shining of pain, rage, and love.

However, I can’t walk around day-to-day simply being a glass of the past, sloshing around and occasionally spilling onto unsuspecting passersby. I can’t continue to just spill all this trauma, drama, and emotion on people who stumble into my path.

The jar refills and I keep going, keep sloshing about. Nothing changes.

I wrote a poem and it speaks to this:

“Every night I try to empty myself

of you through

                 my eyes,

                 my throat.”

Every night. Every day. Sometimes multiple times a day, I try to empty myself of my memories in hopes of moving on and finally being someone, even something, of value.

Sometimes, in the middle of the day when the light is strong and I am “doing things” I can convince myself I am making progress. Then darkness arrives and I am simply alone, simply in the same space, simply treading water still.

I have no desire to give up.

I have no desire to continue.

I have no desire to do anything.

What would I do? Crack open this vessel, spill it all on this screen and let everyone see? No. I’ve been trying to do that. People don’t like that. If I shatter my vessel, theirs will take a hit in some way and we can’t have that.

So, once again, I am biting my virtual tongue. Not writing or living for me because I have always protected others. At least tried to.

And what of these memories?

I am astonished at how little I now recall of my second marriage. I know, rationally, that we had good times. I know I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone and more than I thought possible. Up until year 21, I’d have told you that despite some rough patches, I loved him more each day than the day we married. Up until year 28, I couldn’t fathom a life without him even though, by then, I was no longer “in love” with him and questioned the wisdom of staying.

I still have snippets of memories of good times. Laughter. Love. Passion. They simply hold no emotional value anymore. They feel like window dressings. Peeling paint on stucco.

I do recall many, many bad times and what triggered them, and how, always, I was ████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████

As far as my first marriage, I recall almost nothing. My first husband was a raging, physically abusive alcoholic.

By contrast, I can relate myriad details of those encounters with the wrong man in 2020-2021: every glance, every vocal nuance, every careful touch. Every conversation we had, good or bad is still seated firmly in my mind. It’s not that this relationship was exceptionally safe or secure, it simply didn’t warrant me blotting it out in rage. My writer’s brain demands I not relinquish those memories. No matter how many times and ways I recreate them on the page, they remain. Blessing and curse.

That same writer’s brain demands I not relinquish the anger-inducing memories of my second marriage despite months of therapy and multiple attempts to journal them away.

I know, ultimately, I must put these things on the page in a formal way, perhaps even on social media, if I am to heal. Not because I need to reveal anything or anyone to the world, but because I have wounds that won’t close as long as I keep stumbling into people in my life and blurting my pain in a haphazard and confusing manner. My siblings, my best friend, any potential lover, can only take so much of my blathering before they tune me out entirely. In my anxious blurting, I often make no sense or the import of what I say is lost on them. It is not the individual events of thirty-six years that formed and informed me, but the cumulative.

Will this theoretical/hypothetical formal documentation of those years mean anything? Will it change my earlier statement about being and doing nothing of value? Eh, probably not. I have come full circle then. Can I really justify, knowing potential harms, letting this vessel spill in its entirety?

7 thoughts on “Sloshing: Trauma, Memory, & Blurting

  1. Aimer Boyz

    The older I get the more inconsistent and inaccurate my memories become especially when compared to the memories others have of the same experiences. I can’t speak to whether it is more beneficial to keep or jettison them, or even how to do so. What I have considered, is this question of ‘doing’ that you mention. As someone who’s living a life of no particular importance, I wonder…
    What do we have to prove and who are we proving it to? As a part of nature, not all that different from every other animal, can we not just exist, just be, and try not to hurt anyone in the process?

  2. Peter Heiss

    Lee, not really sure what to offer here. I’ve taken a few days to go back and re-read your words a couple of times, and each time I’m left feeling a bit unsettled. Although you are much more able to put them into hard, raw words in describing your feelings, frustrations, and fears, in your words I can sadly see and hear my own thoughts of “why am I here?” and “is this all there is?” The pandemic and all its complications have certainly made it worse, but for years now since my own (totally unexpected) divorce in 2008—and then my retirement from working in 2012—I have felt like I was just sort of been skating around the edges of life. Not really investing too much or becoming ‘involved’ in much, simply existing and trying to make the best of it. Having photography as an outlet for whatever creative ‘juices’ are left within me since I quit working as a graphic designer back in 1988 definitely helps. And trying to stay active through both hiking and cycling gives me something to do (and, almost as importantly, to pair with any photographic interests I have), but overall I just seem to try and kind of bump along without any real purpose. No dreams, not much joy happening….just a kind of slow-motion existence.

    Anyway, I respect and admire how you are able to distill what I think are similar feelings and thoughts into these concrete structures of words. And, somehow—perhaps—in the telling, gain a better awareness of yourself and what you hope to be.

    1. Lee Ellis Post author

      I appreciate your input and your echo, although I hate that you can relate. To me you bring such humor to my life and your photography brings such beauty. But I understand at the same time. People can tell me all I do for them and it doesn’t fill in the, “Thank you, but…” sense we are left with. “Skating around the edges” is apt. I don’t have answers, I’m afraid, but yes, I am gaining awareness slowly. One step up, two back some days. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my efforts. Take care, my friend.

  3. Peter Heiss

    Oh, and I thought the single photographic image you chose to include here was the perfect foil for your words. Brooding, dark, but somehow hopeful, too.

    1. Lee Ellis Post author

      Each place I go gives me imagery that inspires, whether dark and disturbing or bursting with light/life. That is the biggest gift I’m getting out of this process. A new ability to see, if you will.

  4. Anne-Sophie

    Your picture, your words, so beautiful and true, such quality, You capture the soul of each place, their essence at every time of the day.

    This is a gift. Thank you for sharing it.


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