The following was a rapid write, from a blog challenge to do a 5 minute free write on the word adapt. I did go back and attempt to polish it up, so it technically doesn’t qualify for the 5 minute challenge because I spent about three times as long. (Yes, a whopping 15 minutes : ) ) So many people advise us to “forget the past,” but like it or not, our pasts shape us, change us, and can never really be “forgotten.” We can, however, learn to adapt and overcome.
Adapting…to balloons and a new normal
It was meant to be a fun, exciting day, and for many it was. Seniors passed around their 2018 yearbooks for nostalgic writings from friends and teachers that would be exclaimed over in ensuing decades. Gleeful young people pranked the principal by filling his office with confetti and crepe paper. And a general sense of joy and giddiness permeated the too-warm hallways. This was it, the last official day of high school for hundreds of young people who had wandered the halls for the last four years.
For some the joy dissipated like air from a popped balloon. Or rather, with the air from popped balloons.
There were oodles of the colorful air-filled symbols of upcoming freedom. They sat at the bottom of a stairwell where posters hung for a recent student body election, and dozens more lined the hallways.
It wasn’t the sight of the balloons that sent my lackadaisical, end-of-the-school-year feelings running, to cause the sharp intake of breath, the fight-or-flight mode to kick in.
It was the sound.
Teenagers couldn’t seem to resist the urge to stomp on them, and the cacophony of one bursting after another was terrifying for one who has lived through a mass shooting. The pop pop pop set my heart beating, caused my hands to shake, and my initial inclination was to yell “RUN!!!” while my eyes darted down the hall, around the commons, up the stairwell, in search of a gunman.
The panic probably lasted less than two minutes, and then I was overcome with anger, wanting to lash out at whatever idiot allowed the balloons. I knew I wasn’t being reasonable but PTSD never behaves reasonably.
You never would have known any of this.
I put one foot in front of the other, smiled at a few people along the way, and headed to the classroom where I assist.
This is my new normal.
I hate balloons, or at least the sound of balloons popping.
And closed in areas.
And large crowds.
I hate these things, but I’ve adapted.
More than adapted, to my new normal, in fact. Because by God’s grace, the moments of terror are…momentary. I breathe, focus on His unfailing love. Joy always returns.
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, Your servants, see You work again; let our children see Your glory. Psalm 90:14-16 NLT
Reading this made my heart race for you and I could feel the indignation welling up in my chest. I’m sorry that you have to feel these unwelcome emotions but blessed that you have a coping mechanism in Jesus Christ. And that you’re able to lean on Him always. Praise the Lord!
Thank you for sharing this reminder that joy always comes. God is good.
Marie, I never went through anything as rough as what you did. But I understand the gunshot thing, as a young street gang in our urban neighborhood drove by our house last year, shooting at each other’s cars. We were in the den when one bullet whizzed right by my face. We ducked, prayed in tongues, and called 911, shaking and hearts racing for a long time. Our house is still riddled with bullets. Firecrackers make us jump and wonder which it is — firecrackers, or gunshots? And yes, I’ve jumped at the sound of a balloon popping before. My late dad, a Korean war vet, never could enjoy fireworks with any ease or comfort for the same reason. My pastor was shot 4 times in the leg at age 22, and once jumped, yelling the Lord’s Name, at the sound of a microphone feedback. BUT, as you said, praise and worship does get us through those triggers!
Praying right now, too, for the victims of terrorism in Mozambique, for God’s protection this week…