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Do you know traffic patterns?

Today, I am leaving the gym and headed for the grocery store to grab two things I left off my list just yesterday. It’s a gray day in Philly. I am speed walking to escape the rain, but not running because the workout just reminded my legs that I haven’t been in the gym for awhile.

As I approach the busy traffic light, I am looking over to the yielding traffic on my left and see the steady stream of cars breezing through the green light in front of me. On the other side is a similar yielding curve pointing the opposite direction. Both curves are flanked with a parallel one-way street above them.

I hear someone suddenly raise their tone and I look to my left again. Instead of a glance my gaze is intent on this man who is speaking directly to everyone and no one. His clothes are torn. He is wearing stress on his face, as he continues to speedily get this message out while staring straight ahead. I notice as more people approach the louder he gets, the faster he speaks. He continues to stare ahead of him.

Only a few moments pass when suddenly he is in the street. He’s walking swiftly to cross in front of us and the street on the other side as well.

I go to follow his lead and see in that moment the light was turning yellow. There was still traffic coming both ways. As he moves through the crossing, his voice fades. It gets lower.

Once I finally cross I am side by side with him waiting at the one-way crossing. Once we cross, he walks off alone. He has stopped relaying the message that was burning in him.

I kept thinking, the more people that were around him, the louder and faster he spoke. No one approached him. He only looked ahead. Truly, he is speaking to no one and everyone and somehow, he saw a traffic pattern no one else saw, because he crossed two streets in the middle of traffic with two green lights and he walked off like a professional pedestrian.

More people, and he talks. Louder and faster. His intensity rises. People leave, and he retracts.

He was looking for his exit and the moment his brain mapped the traffic patterns he made his move. The moment he made his move, he stopped talking.

I don’t know what this man has carried in his life, but it would be easy to assume there has been heartache and significant pain by other people. I kept thinking of how he did not look at anyone around him, but just used the volume and speed to make sure there was no reason for anyone to come near. A survival tactic. To fill in the void of strangers being nearby when he needed to cross the road. Of course, he moved quickly when he could. Of course, he knows the traffic patterns. Of course, he felt his safest bet was to be left alone.

I have been working on my book proposal for two months. My writing schedule is exhausting. Each day, I start with one of two options:

Option 1:

Make my bed.
Brush my teeth.
Drink my protein shake.
Do my physical therapy for my shoulder.
Write in my journal (personal, not the book).

Then I have a session at my gym or yoga, or walk outside. I then push out my first morning writing session for 2-3 hours.

I work on social media for a few hours grouping my content together, and obviously grab new memes.

After social media, 2-3 days a week I meet with my writing coach or agent.

I cook my dinner.

I stretch. I do breathwork. I am in bed with my book.

Option 2:

I eat chocolate chip cookie dough for breakfast.

I regret it, but then tell myself I didn’t really taste it, so I eat it for lunch too.

Then I regret that, so I watch Love is Blind.

Stay tuned, where next month I teach you about less extremes, and we will call that option 3.

In writing my story I am shaken by how quickly memories and emotions come back. I have also begun to see the old patterns of the ways I craved being alone, but didn’t how to be without such pain. I am 45 now, and much of this healing journey started when I was 18. But I was part of a community where everything was translated to faith, and I lost a lot of time because there were no words for what seemed to go on inside of me. At least, none that were offered by the people I was dependent on.

I continue to see the thread of how much access people had to me, because I did not know that we were equals, and I molded myself to what I thought I was supposed to be to hide from the shame I carried.

I always felt I was a deficit, and would do whatever it took to find acceptance, or love. Anything really, that could put the pain in me to rest.

The people who had access to me, would never be those who had impact to help me find relief.

Decades of my life were spent this way. Five years ago, I walked away from a lucrative career to write, and travel, but most importantly, to find reprieve.

The introvert in me has begged for more rest. The wounds in me have begged for protection from people. The deficit in me has asked for proper tools to grow.

The more healing that takes place, the more I see the reasons I have had such strong reactions to people. I think if I could have said one thing to everyone I’ve met it would be: “I have no idea what’s real. But if you do, I am begging you to tell me. If you don’t, please leave me the fuck alone.”

In religious spaces, we are often taught that anyone who does not think or believe like us needs our mercy, pity, or distance. Rarely is it taught that people who have different beliefs deserve respect.

The number of people who had access to me, had me speaking to no one and everyone, and I became so raw at times, that if I could not map my bodies response to the ebbs and flows of other people’s presence, I could learn the traffic patterns around them and escape the moment I saw my path.

I was not running from connection. I was running towards me the best I could.

The pain of living in a world where people who should not have had access to anyone, have had years of access to you, takes a toll.

But, when you learn the traffic patterns you can also learn:

-What offers you the quickest form of relief.
-That it is ok to need space from people.
-That even if you are not able to accept good others’ offers, that you still deserve good.
-That when parts of you are afraid of others, that fear is valid.

And most importantly, that once you have offered yourself reprieve from the things that trigger you (regardless of how others view those things), you can connect in new and beautiful ways because you reconnected with you first and showed respect to the much needed space.

I don’t know what you have carried. I don’t know what you are carrying now. But, I know that there is so much peace inside of us behind the chaos that comes from pain. And I know that sometimes the world is screaming at us and telling us there is only one way to heal, and on that path so many of us got hurt more, and now we are still trying to find what is real.

You are. We are. The stories. The pain. The fear. The confusion. The intensity of others taking from us when we did not know how to say no, and us learning all the traffic patterns around us so we can protect ourselves the best way we know how.

It’s all real.

Learn your patterns. What are the things happening around you that you can navigate in ways that give you that small dose of your value? What is happening to you that you need to name, so if you are able, you can pivot the hurt? What is happening around you that you can walk through to find reprieve? Please trust there are many of us in this state (even if it is NOT ideal and hypervigilant) who are finding ways to break from the crowds, and exhale.

I am so glad you all are here. There is an uprising of people turning their pain into power and no longer willing to apologize for being hurt. I want to be a part of this. I want to see hurt people come alive and know that the way we share our stories can be the way to better days for all who walked this path alone.


For those fellow melancholy souls, I have had “The First Day of Spring” by Noah and the Whale on repeat. Hope you enjoy!


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