Time heals all wounds they say. And while creating space is significant for change, unless we actively and intentionally do the work toward peace we ultimately end up putting our mental health on hold until something triggers the traumas of our past.
My husband and I both grew up in Chicago. I was raised as a 1970's child in a middle class neighborhood called, Pill Hill, known for the many doctors that lived and also worked at a nearby hospital in the 60s. On one hand, this small neighborhood boasted beautiful homes filled with professional African-American families; in fact the house behind our family home across the alley took up about 1/4 of the block and had an elevator in it! I have fond memories of playing double dutch, walking to the neighborhood store and riding bikes with my sister and friends. On the other hand, I was always aware that potential dangers lurked all around. For example, the very first bike my sister rode on our block was stolen while she was on it! A kid came by and asked her for directions only to push her off and ride off in seconds. Another memory included my mom's brand new Oldsmobile Cutlass being stolen from in front of our home the very next morning after it was purchased. The car was later found totally stripped down and useless. As a result, slowly but surely with each fear-filled experience I grew more cautious and guarded with all interactions.
My husband spent part of his childhood on the west side, then later moved about 5 miles away to Jeffrey Manor, a popular south-side neighborhood that had its own community of families and businesses. We didn't know each other growing up yet we experienced some of the same violence and family breakdown that creates generational pain, stress and grief. As great as Chicago is, it also has a duality of living that swings from the "hood to Hollywood." And as much as I love my city, I also acknowledge that trauma is real and greatly impacts how we live.
How do I measure the affect it has on our lives today? The following experience was one indicator. One night, about 3 years ago as my husband and I were sleeping in our southwest Atlanta home, our burglar alarm unexpectedly went off. As if we've been prepping for this moment all along we shot up simultaneously from our sleep, literally within a few seconds, automatically armed ourselves and without any words needed, proceeded to courageously handle the unknown, whatever the cost. Although just a false alarm due to a faulty wire, it was in these brief moments that I realized yet again the subconscious impact from years of being exposed to varying degrees of violence.
What I know today is that it's critically important that we acknowledge the pain of our past to move forward in wholeness for the future. Feel, deal and heal. Although no one can guarantee peace and safety free from harm in this life, we can only let go of what we're willing to acknowledge otherwise it settles down deep within us like hardened rocks hidden underneath a manicured lawn slowly stifling the roots of life above. Decide today to work toward letting go of experiences that don't serve you to live more fully and freely. Pray, speak your healing, take a mindful walk, practice yoga, meditate, mentor, and/or see a therapist. There's options to renew your best life. Ultimately, living well is a daily process that's worth striving for. Keep moving forward, create space and be the change for peace, our future depends on it.