I see a human being standing in front of me. What do you see?
The routine of getting ready for work takes daily effort and yet, at times, it feels effortless when I get out of my bed and greet the day in quiet habits. I have never really been a morning person. A regime of coffee and pondering, gentle movement and care, connection to the animals that live in my home with me, their energy, their love all play a role in getting me ready for the day ahead. Connection to my kiddo’s and my husband provide me a gentle and energizing way to awaken.
The habits I have cultivated over time occur in such a way that slow movement is possible and rushing is not. As those I love head out to meet the world, love and hugs are shared. These daily habits are a must and I have learned of their importance through difficult lessons, intense emotions and tough experiences.
My life before this slow-moving morning was often a rush, a barrage of emotions, sullen faces, contained bodies, sometimes holding back tears, rushing, armored and poised in discomfort. I used to live in unspoken, frantic patterns, and I came by these patterns honestly…
I come from a family who has experienced intergenerational trauma. My ancestors experienced many forms of trauma, mostly derived from trying to finding ways to survive the Russian Revolution. My ancestors also experienced trauma as a result of imposed religious rituals and patriarchy. From these painful experiences grew defensive ways of being that included hiding, living in the shadows, suppressing the unspoken pain.
, Harmful patterns began to develop and a vortex of trauma was created. I am blessed, so very blessed to be a member of a family that has been willing to face the hiding, to step out of the shadows and explore their unspoken pain. As a result of their willingness and support I have found my way to my resilience and mornings filled with slow, deliberate, calming actions. As a result of hard
One of the roles that I am currently enacting is that of a Child and Youth Care Practitioner. Presently, I serve people who have experienced intergenerational trauma, exploitation, addiction, homelessness, marginalization, abuse in all forms, and in many cases people who have survived residential school. In reality, I have been helping others since I was a young adult. My service to others career began 25 years ago. I have worked in group homes, residential treatment centers and community agencies that support people surviving without homes. I have worked for the government in the Child and Family Services division with High-Risk Youth and as an assessor with families. I write the grocery list for you not as a resume or a presentation of my professional prowess. Rather, I present the list to you as a way of identifying the humans that have guided me to consistently see and experience the human being standing in front of me. This sentence, to see the human being in front of me, is so easy to write and, yet, has been challenging to embody. Seeing a human: I am aware of differences, similarities, mental health, addiction, their nervous system, my nervous system, my judgements, my fear, my curiosity, my history, their history, legislation, therapeutic practice, imprisoned movements, policy and ethics. To honor them is, really to honor me.
, When engaged with other humans, especially in the capacity in which I work, means that their veils of emotion and behaviors are interlaced with my own veils and behaviors. This pendulation of awareness, learning and release is instrumental in discharging trauma. I do my best to stay present to the human in me so this exchange is regulated and not frenzied or fraught with pedantic education or a to do list of health. This has been my life’s work. To see the human being in front of me.
I write about human beings and relational connection with an awareness of a deep well of gratitude that exists inside of me. The awareness of this depth, this collective connection, provides me with the reminder that life is messy, difficult, impossible to perfect and moving at a rapid pace. Knowing this as a personal truth highlights for me the importance and preciousness of my ever-evolving connection of human beings. This connection provides the possibility of healing, learning and adaptation, alongside the intense emotion and pain that often accompanies relationships.
The ability to see fellow humans and to learn from them has graced me with a gift, a connection to a deeply interconnected part of me. As I reflect and remember teachers, life experiences, somatic practices and spiritual rituals that have supported me to stand as a human, able to see the human being in front of me, I see the faces of all the people I have served as I reflect and write. I write to share with you. I write to you because the learning of a Practitioner who serves people who have survived trauma is impossible to do in isolation. It is impossible to do without sharing freely. This work is messy, joyous, humbling, incredible, excruciating – sometimes all of these emotions occur at once! It feels freeing to share this journey with others who may feel similar. In this connection, in this depth, may we all see human beings in ourselves and in each other.
I referenced the joyous and difficult experience of working in the field of service to others. I haven’t found a word or the quintessential word that describes the energy of this work, the holding of space in the face of trauma, the healing of personal trauma so you can hold the space efficaciously. This evolutionary practice of becoming a nuanced practitioner has evolved through the learnings from incredible teachers, of new methodologies, an understanding of therapeutic practice and ethics, deep curiosity, a willingness to make mistakes and learn, adaptation, an understanding of my nervous system, an understanding of natural order, a connection to nature and, finally, through somatic and spiritual practices.
For this knowledge and learning and for the humans who taught me, I am grateful! The people whom I have served have my heart and I continue to be forever grateful for the guidance they gave me, the experiences I shared with each of them helped me to see the human being standing in front of me.
Sally, is one of the people I remember. She is an incredible woman. Sally has 5 children. Her children are currently living with relatives as a result of Child and Family Services involvement. Many generations of Sally’s family survived residential school. Years of residential school and the trauma and torture they faced while attending the schools created a tornado of intergenerational traumatic wounds so deep that daily functioning is very difficult for her. Sally has experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse as a child and as an adult. Her daily life has been filled with fear and trauma. She continues to face domestic violence at the hands of people she desperately hopes will love her. Her partners continue the patterns of their own trauma enacted again and again in abusive ways. She has been beaten, stabbed ad
, choked. She uses substances to deal with daily trauma and abuse. When her children were apprehended by Child and Family Services because of repeated domestic violence she called me from the ambulance. Her haunting, guttural cries, “THEY TOOK MY BABIES, THEY TOOK MY BABIES,” came from generations of being taken, of being abused. Her voice, her helpless screams seemed to weave together with her ancestors. Over and over, they screamed, they whispered, they eventually embodied, “THEY TOOK MY BABIES!” My heart and tears recollect the sensation and I continue to not be able to truly comprehend that level of pain, to find justice or understand how healing is possible amidst so much complex trauma. I did my best to hold the space, to be with her, to offer gentle words…. I am here, I am here, I am here. Being present in this moment and embodying being here, was excruciating. The complexity of the situation, her pain, the children’s safety…I wanted to be rescued. I weep as I remember. Not because of a lack of resilience or inappropriate boundaries. I weep because she is human and because I am human. It is within this human connection that healing may occur. . I did my best, but my best was not enough to change the daily life for Sally. I continue to hold her and her children in my heart. I continue to send them energy, to send them love. I continue to see her as a human. Time and time again, I have learned to stand at the precipice of pain and trauma with the people I serve. I continue to stand with fellow humans, and I stand on my own two feet. I do my best to embody the words, I am here…
As I remember who I am, I remember who we are to each other. In my career, in my life, I have faced trauma, loss, burnout, personal shame for feeling a deep compassion for the people I serve, shame for being vulnerable, inability to see the human in front of me. I have been confused, helpless, searching, overwhelmed and frozen. I have also experienced a deep connection to others, to my own healing, to a renewable search for learning and healing trauma. These lessons have paved the way for the healing of my own wounds, my own trauma and have made it attainable for me to help to create the conditions for helping others renegotiate trauma. As I anchored to my resilience, continued to learn and challenge myself, I also nurtured myself and developed gentle daily habits of care while renegotiating my own trauma. It has become increasingly important to sense humanity in myself and in every person I meet. This does not mean I have lost connection to my boundaries or the need to discharge the rage and disdain I experience when I watch leaders in this world continue to harm the humans they are elected to care for, or when I witness the exclusion, greed, hatred, violence and trauma that exists in our world. Rathe, I see the human in glimpses as I allow for the four-letter words, the emotion and disillusionment and the discharge of any of the toxicity I may have picked up in my system. Each time, I return to the nurturing daily habits, of connection to others and to those I love.
My hope, my prayer, my offering is that I may contribute in daily ways to a world where we all know we belong. I would love resolution, validation and to promise an end to trauma. If I am to be honest though, the true validation of success for me is found in the moments where I sense the human in front of me. The human in whatever form they come. In this humble place, in this flicker of magic of the ineffable, a world of belonging exists.
Do you see a human being standing in front of you?