“There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking rather about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.
And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of our minds, left them to dessicate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches to the gut, killing time until we came back that way.
The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mold beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.
What do we need to be warned about? We each have our own little triggers.
. . . There are still things that profoundly upset me when I encounter them, whether it’s on the Web or the word or in the world. They never get easier, never stop my heart from trip-trapping, never let me escape this time, unscathed. But they teach me things, and they open my eyes, and if they hurt, they hurt in ways that make me think and grow and change.” Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning
I’ve been reading Trigger Warning, a short story collection about fairy tales and ghosts and time travel and a myriad of other mysteries, and when I came across this passage in Gaiman’s introduction it reminded me of the job. Fire & EMS. And the way a call or a patient can lay dormant in your mind for years and then one day rise to the surface of your consciousness. But then I realized this passage is really about life. Regardless of what we do for a living, This is life. Everyone has their trap doors, their triggers, their ghosts and nightmares. It doesn’t mean we have a disorder or syndrome. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with us. It simply means we are human.
We Are Human. Hallelujah!
Wisdom comes from pain and darkness and bearing witness. A New Year is coming. Grow wise my friends! Let Neil Gaiman, master of ghosts and horrors inspire us. May we all Think and Grow and Change.