I understand how to write very well. I know that if you go 3-4 (that should be three to four) sentences with a different word starting each sentence, it makes for stronger writing. I know that and yet here we are, using “I” three sentences in a row. You shouldn’t address “you” as it is given that an audience is already there, but I just did. I understand that a sentence cannot start with And or Because. And yet I do it anyway. My overuse of commas come in from greatly feeling the need to over-express pauses where I need them in order to convey how I feel more deeply. Sometimes I leave out commas altogether and just have these huge run on sentences so people know that what I’m saying doesn’t need any pauses because I mean it to be harsh and fast and all-in-one breath even though that isn’t grammatically correct.
The other day someone told me I should write a book and these things came to mind. Grammatically correct is how I speak, but it isn’t always how I prefer to write when I’m writing for me, and I know if I ever had something published, I would have to change that. Unless this was the start to my book. Then people would know right off the bat. See, that’s not a full sentence. It started with then. That’s not one either.
My other thought was… well what would I write about? Would I just mash all of my blogs into a book of essays by some random girl? Would I have to dig deeper into my life and share things I don’t usually share, to reel people in to want to read it? I sure as heck am not about to make some fictional masterpiece, I can barely make up stories to tell my kids at bedtime. Fumbling over my words when I speak is common, but not when I write. When I write they come out so fast they get stuck in non-fully formed sentences sometimes. Something about that, though, I can’t edit out when I read back over them. I feel like it takes out the hurry that I was in to say what I needed to in that moment, which often times is more desperate than I realize until I’m actually typing it.
He told me I should write a book, maybe out of obligation because he’s my husband. Then someone else told me the same thing, maybe out of obligation, too.
“What would I write about?” I asked, laughing.
“Your life.” He said, very seriously. “Your viewpoints and just things that have happened in your life. You have an incredible story to tell.”
So here we are, with a heck of a story. Getting something down on paper that I’ve talked with my therapist about. Something I laughed with my friends about so they wouldn’t know how scared I was. Not because it would make a good book, but because it was a monumental night in my life. Because I’m okay with it now, because the mere thought of it doesn’t send me into a panic anymore. Learning how to heal is magic, and it’s been one of my favorite things to do.
We were robbed at gunpoint. That sounds like a joke, right? Well it isn’t. We – me, my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time), and two of his roommates – were held at gunpoint.
It was the middle of the night, about 2 A.M. We were winding down from a few drinks after a night of bowling, all sitting in the kitchen about to go to bed. The door slammed open and two guys stormed in. Their faces were well covered, they were dressed all in black, and they each held a gun up, fingers right where they needed to be in case we didn’t cooperate.
At first, we were confused. Chelsea said, “Is this a joke?” Their anger quickly told us it wasn’t. They started demanding “the money” and we all looked at each other wondering if anyone knew what they were talking about. Everyone looked baffled. “Put all of your phones and wallets right here, NOW! Then everyone to the living room.”
The guns were so close. So close that when I looked up to walk, I could see the details of where the bullet would come out.. pointed right at my face. I closed my eyes tightly for a moment, as if to attempt to erase what I saw, and quickly looked away.
We were all sitting on the couches. One burglar sat in a barstool across from us, gun still pointed the whole time. The other one guarded the door, hand on the knob ready to dart when they needed.
Honestly I don’t remember exactly what they said. They kept talking about “the money” and then their voices went to the back burner in my mind. I was staring at the carpet in front of my feet. Vividly, I remember looking up at Kurt for the first time since they’d been there. I’ve never seen a face read an expression as easily as I did in that moment, his eyes and his face looked so apologetic. Not because he knew why they were there, but because it was happening. Maybe because he could see that I was scared, maybe because he was scared something was about to happen. I know I was.
The one sitting in the chair took turns pointing the gun at each of our faces, asking singularly, “Do you know where it is?” There it was again. That bullet could slip out so quickly, so easily, right at my face. I looked back down at the carpet and my thoughts took over, quickly morphing into a mini prayer, the strangest one I’ve ever prayed: “If they shoot one of us, please let it be in a place where we’ll survive. Just shoot me in the leg and I’d be fine until someone got here. Please don’t kill anyone. Shoot us in the leg. Just shoot me in the leg.” I remember focusing on that sentence over and over. “Just shoot me in the leg, shoot me in the leg.”
Then all of a sudden… he put his gun down. For the first time in five minutes, it wasn’t pointed at us, and he was moving toward the door where the other guy was. For the first time in five minutes, I had a glimmer of hope that the guns might not be used as more than a threat.
“When we leave, wait five minutes. After that, you can get your phones. We’ll dump them at the end of the street.”
They took our wallets, our phones, their guns, our sense of security, and they left. When the door closed behind them, there was a deep breath from all four of us in unison, a brief pause of shock, and Chelsea ran to lock the door. We all sprinted as fast as we could downstairs.
Chelsea snuck her phone somewhere when they walked in, so she was able to call the police.
Kurt grabbed his gun and stood as his bedroom doorway, keeping all of us behind him, in case they came back. For some, it’s always the argument of: “Well if you just had a gun…” but he did. It was close, too. But there were two of them and one of us with a weapon, those weren’t good enough odds.
I sat in a corner and started shaking profusely. My entire body felt like it was being shocked. I couldn’t feel any pain, but couldn’t stop moving, either. My body was in shock. I’ve never been so relieved and terrified at the same time, so happy to be alive, so unsure if that’s actually what I was. Was it real? Was it a bad dream? Did they really not hurt us? Was I absolutely sure I was alive?
The cops came. We filed reports. They talked with us together and separately.
Turns out, you know, robbers are stupid, they got the wrong place. That also sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? Kurt’s townhouse was at the top of a stair split; a duplex. They went to the wrong one. Took the wrong stairs. Read the wrong number. Opened the wrong door. The neighbors would’ve known about “the money” but we didn’t.
That moment of life or death was a misunderstanding. The guns in our faces were an accident.
A. Freaking. Accident.
I already had an unusual hatred of guns. Months before this, my Grandpa died because of an accident with a gun. I heard the gunshot that killed him right across the road.
The robbery solidified for me that guns were my least favorite thing in the world.
That night didn’t just scare me for twenty-four hours, it held on like a leech and it changed my personality.
I used to feel very invincible and care-free. I’d make friends with any stranger. I was a walk with a skip in my step person.
After that night, I blew up on my roommate who forgot to lock our door one night when I felt my fear kick in. I had my first panic attack when a pizza delivery man followed me down the hill asking if I lived in apartment 2. I shouted no and slammed the door as fast as I could. When I walked to class I went as quickly as I could, suspicious of every male I passed on campus, because they were never caught. Quickly studying people’s eyes if they seemed the same height and stature, but always more afraid after I made eye contact in case the recognition went both ways. I broke down in my professors office when letting her know I’d be late the next day because I had to go to the police station to give fingerprints. Life felt weird afterward, always on high alert, fight or flight never got the memo to leave.
People, strangers, specifically strangers who were men became… scary.
An incident in my life that made me stop and wonder if the world wasn’t actually good. That’s a very black and white switch when it first appears, grey didn’t linger even for a moment. “The world is bad, and scary, and this may happen again, even often. I have to be careful, always.”
Fast forward to having my first baby, moving to a town I didn’t know two weeks after birth, with a sprinkle of postpartum depression. Let’s not forget a few more “experiences” ol’ college had up it’s sleeve for me; life was terrifying. When I went to the grocery store, I was certain that someone would pull a gun out and the same thing would happen, only this time… this time I would be hurt, and this time I had my baby.
The instincts to protect my child from harm, mixed with the fear of harm being out of my control; it was numbing. Breath-taking. Full body consuming.
Walking into any building that wasn’t my apartment, I would immediately seek out the closest escape route in the case I heard gunshots. No joke. The moment I walked in, I was looking for a way out. If a stranger made eye contact with me, I could feel the panic work it’s way up my stomach, into my throat, many times almost forcing me to leave then and there, simply because they looked at me.
Every other day on the news was a school shooting. Guns. Kids. Bad people. Guns. Kids. Bad people. It was a loop I couldn’t escape. My fears got worse, and worse, until eventually I could barely leave the house.
When I did, I rushed to get home to lock the door behind me, put one hand on my heart and one my daughter to slow my panicked breathing, and calm down until the next Walmart run or trip to the playground.
It sounds ridiculous, I know it does. But it was real for me. Another reason I was reluctant to fully admit these issues was because Kurt didn’t seem bothered by it. It was in the past and over for him and I knew it should’ve been for me, too, but it wasn’t. Why didn’t it bother him? Why did it do this to me? Was it involuntary or did I allow it?
For me, it grew. And grew. And grew.
Until we had a second child, and it grew so big I started exploding in other areas of my life. The fear, the anxiety, the lack of control, it became crippling. It became me.
I had to do something. I had to learn to feed my logical thoughts rather than my most made-up scenarios. I needed to be able to take my kids to the store without fearing I would die every time I left the house. I needed to not live feeling petrified of the world moving around me.
And do you know what? When I got to therapy and started talking some things out, that wasn’t what bothered me the most. It was the robbery a little, but not the majority. Guns, some. But not mostly.
I started talking about this other thing in my life that I didn’t think of often, that I didn’t realize had bottled up, that upset me so much more.
See, how do you make a book when you don’t even want to talk about the plot?
So we’ll skip that.
It came down to this: I had a beautiful childhood. Like sunshine and rainbows all the time, the kind you see only in movies. You know that scene at the end of Matilda when she’s finally free and she’s having a tea party with Ms. Honey? The sun is shining and they’re just running around the backyard without a care in the world together? Somehow, that’s what my parents did for us. That’s what I think of when I remember being a kid; all good, all happy. I was one of the lucky ones.
We didn’t have to go back very far in therapy, because all of my shit happened after I grew up. And I buried it. Boy, oh boy, I buried it down hard. So much so, that I didn’t know what all was in there until it started coming up, until my emotions were like a matching game to my shit that I didn’t even have the answers to. It was wild, honestly.
I also learned that I was avoiding. When I felt scared, I told myself to stop feeling that way. When I felt angry, anxious, anything, I shoved it away. I never gave myself permission to feel these things, I just assumed they were wrong because they felt so big. But, they felt so big because they kept getting pushed away. My fear was a snowball, and I kept pushing it down a hill, rolling and collecting and growing, until eventually it was as big as me.
The most important thing that night taught me was something that sounds so simple, cliche even, but it isn’t:
If you feel sad, let yourself.
If you feel freaking angry about something that happened to you, sit in that.
Gut-wrenching heartbreak, let it in.
Grief has to find a place.
The more you push it away, the worse it gets.
The more you give yourself permission, the closer you are to healing.
It hurts, oh my gosh it hurts to with everything you need to, I think that’s why we try avoiding it for so long. We know how enormous those feelings would be to open the flood gates to. But that’s where the healing is, that’s how you get it out of the pit of your stomach. Acknowledge the pit and it will shrink. Ignore it and it will grow, like a dang weed.
I know that because I felt and I healed. It’s a memory without anxiety now. I no longer walk into places fearing for my life. I’m no longer terrified to leave my house.
You know what else that night taught me?
Live a life at all times that a moment of life or death wouldn’t change you. It wouldn’t make you regret how you’re living, what your job is, things left unsaid, or whether or not you’re a nice enough human being. If a gun were close to your face and you didn’t know the outcome: would you wish you could change? Or would you feel peaceful with your life?
Maybe I’m avoiding again. Maybe I’m worried that if I write a book, no one will care enough about my stuff. Because my stuff is nothing compared to other people’s stuff.
Because who would want to read a book by someone who starts sentences with because? And with and? And chops up sentences and ignores the rules of writing due to typing emotionally? Who uses too many commas, not enough commas, run-on sentences, likes numbers better as numbers; who would choose to overlook real writing for raw writing if I’m not willing to change it?
But on the other hand… Having a life that’s so incredible you have to get over a constant fear of losing, may be worth sharing with the world. Maybe regardless of writing choppy and just straight wrong, others could learn healing through how I learned to heal. Maybe one day I’d get the guts to share all of my guts. Maybe not, and maybe that’s okay. It would be a tough line to determine what to share and what to keep close.
I accept that I feel these ways. I accept that the final answer could be no one at all, and I accept that, that may suck a little.
I accept it, and I’m moving on. Thieves are thieves. Fear is a thief. But fear doesn’t hold me anymore.