“Posttraumatic Slave Syndrome, as described by Dr. Joy DeGruy, is a powerful spiritual, psychological, and physical force. When young people come to the farm, they start making jokes about slavery and making up their own version of spirituals to try to process this trauma. The field was the scene of the crime, so it’s not going to be easy coming home to the land. Our trauma is like a grain of sand that gets into a clam. She can’t cough it out, so she keeps covering it up. The resulting pearl looks beautiful and it is ours because it was passed down through our mothers, but what’s inside of the smooth shine is a lot of deep trauma. We must notice the pearl and recognize how important it is for people to hold on to the pearl. Just as a pearl becomes part of the clam, this metaphorical trauma pearl becomes part of our story, too. If we yank it out, we will kill the clam, and we don’t want to do that. We need to figure out how to live with this double consciousness that W. E. B. Du Bois describes, and faith is a part of that liberation.”
The planet we live on/in, and our history of exploring it and making sense of it, is a pile of weird, wild, stranger-than-fictions, a subspecies of which have conglomerated into this single 2023 book about a particular submersible.
“Each night we sleep with our bodies pressed together like flowers petals in a book, and each day we laugh together at something outrageous or inane, and I think at some point, reliably, during every 24 hours—I can’t believe I get to do this all over again tomorrow, or some version of it, with the person I have loved for almost half my life.”
—Julie Marie Wade, “This Is Not the House That Pain Built,” in “From The Honesty Room: A Quincunx,” Silk Road, Issue 24, Fall 2022, p. 71
From Courtney Denelle’s interview in Roi Fainéant, published today.
Writing can be personal therapy. Some people say it can’t or shouldn’t be, and this assumption may come from “a workshop mentality of…peer call and response” that doesn’t want to see personal “journals.” The refusal to consider that good literature can also be therapeutic for the author is a “diminishment” of the work—both personal and artistic—that people do when they write about their trauma, “as if it’s not serious, or as if because it’s therapeutic, we’re somehow not cutting along the nerve, we’re somehow not doing the work.”
“I was directly engaging with myself through the process of not only writing this in terms of generating the work, but brutally revising. I mean I could recite it to you at this point, I’ve gone over it so many times. So, if that’s not rigorous in a literary sense, I really don’t know what is.”
You’re never going to overcome your trauma in a binary, absolutist on-off sense. You can heal, you can change, you can move forward, but the past is always with you. Denelle explains:
“There’s never going to be a laurel crowning that is going to place her on the other side of all that has passed. The best we can do in terms—and when I say we, I mean me and her—is that we can learn to live alongside it. We can learn to live in the world and, kind of, solve the problem of living. And when you’ve lived with a fatal urge, even when that urge is not activated, it casts a long shadow. So, you know, feeling in a sustainable capacity, at least in my experience, requires me to perpetually recalibrate and try to understand, or at least move towards understanding, in order to bear the weight of my own reality.”