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  • Writer's pictureAnnamaria Nemeth

Safe harbor amidst chaos

We live in such uncertain times and record-breaking catastrophes are flooding the news non-stop. To start with, of course, is COVID-19, a very complex virus that has ravaged the world and changed the way humans must now interact.

Now, due to climate change, we have been horrified to observe, or perhaps even experienced, the fires on the West Coast which are creating such devastation for human, animal, and plant life. Climate change has also added more hurricanes than our world has ever before experienced and we watch them devastate our southern states,  

I could go on and on, but we get plenty of this information by listening to the news. With the accessible web, we also have all of this at our fingertips. Is this really healthy for us, though? I am not suggesting that the information is not useful, or that knowledge is not useful. But what it does to us from a psychological standpoint can be devastating in ways we aren’t even sure of yet.

We are a resilient species and are capable of adapting to many diverse situations, but what these latest catastrophic events have done to us is frightening to me. I had a vacation recently. We traveled through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and back to Maine. A good old-fashioned road trip. Only it was not. Everything is changed and, of course, understandably so. However, what is sad is having to see the level of fear of normal human interactions. What is sad to see are the small towns becoming ghost towns with so many businesses closed. What is sad to witness is the level of fear and anger people are dealing with even on trails in nature. Fear though seems to be such a strong emotion right now...


I was raised with thinking that there are things that will happen to you that you have no control over. But what is important to understand is that what you do after those things happen and then how you move forward, is something you do have control over. You only know what you know until something forces you to gain new knowledge and adapt to the new norms.

One example of this way of looking at life was reinforced to me one day, not just with words but with actual behavior. I recall my mom coming into our room one night, sometime before 10:00, and explaining that the scary thing that we were feeling was an earthquake. If things got bad and we felt really scared we should just jump out of the balcony. We lived on ground level so this was not a problem. I use to do that a lot anyway, just being a kid. The light from the ceiling in the living room was swinging back and forth, but at the time we had no other major signs. I fell back asleep only to wake to the news and evidence of the greatest natural devastation I had ever seen.

The good news was that the school was closed due to damage to the building. A huge gap separating levels and sections of the school. If you have read any of my previous writings you know that school was not my favorite thing to do at the time. I started to look around and realized just how serious this had been and yet we had slept through it. The news spoke of the gravity of the devastation and lives lost, it was heartbreaking. They showed buildings crumbled with limbs sticking out, wounded people, and many bodies. For a child, this was quite scary to see.

I think about the many traumatic experiences I have gone through and I cannot imagine having gone through them without having my strong grounding in my faith. The most traumatic of those experiences took place during my first marriage. My ex-husband had a very strange range of beliefs and a very strong lack of trust. At the time that this particular event occurred, we had already had our four children but due to so much abuse from him, I had left the marriage.

As a wife and mother of four, I would have done anything to save that marriage and to keep my family together. But because of his strong lack of trust in me, he had expressed a strong need for me to take a lie detector test so he could have peace of mind about the misconceptions he had of me. I had no problem with doing this because I felt I had nothing to hide.

So, feeling very confident about this, I drove us down to Maryland where he lived and proceeded to go have this test which I knew I would easily pass, which I did. I was driving back to his place with excitement, thinking that this was the answer and that he would be happy. Finally, we could move on with our lives with a new beginning. That was my naive thinking and, knowing what I know now about abusive relationships, I know I was lying to myself.

I arrived at his place and he opened the door. The smell of alcohol on his breath hit me and so did the sight of the revolver in his hands. My first concerns were for the children; were they ok? I asked about the boys and he said they were asleep. When the lie detector test was brought up, and I shared the news of my passing it, he already knew that. However, he wore a hateful look and simply said to me: “What did you do, give him a blow job to pass?”

My heart sank and I had no idea what to say or what to do, I could feel my heart race as fear encompassed me. He grabbed me and slammed me onto the couch, sitting on top of me while he pinned me down. My arms were pinned down under his knees, I was trapped. On top of that, I was paralyzed with fear already, seeing the gun in his hands again. He placed the barrel against my forehead and said he would conduct his own lie detector test and every time I answered with what he felt was a lie, he would pull the trigger. He had one bullet in the revolver. Spinning the cartridge chamber, he pressed the tip of the barrel against my forehead again.  

I can still recall the alcohol on his breath, still today the smell of alcohol on one's breath takes me back to that day, that moment...the cold steel pressed against my forehead. I do not recall the first question he asked but I know I answered truthfully. Then came the Russian roulette game and he again pressed the gun against my forehead and pulled the trigger. Click. No bullet this time. Simultaneously the baby started crying in the next room with a cry that he had never had before.

I begged him to please let me go check on the baby and he did. I went into the room, shaking and with tears flooding down my face. The baby was ok. I picked him up and embraced him with the thought that I might never get to see my kids again. I took my time and watched my kids sleeping quietly, peacefully. Once the baby settled down and I went back to the living room, I realized my ex-husband had passed out. Another prayer had been answered and I was able to get the kids, get out and away safely. 

As I am writing this, I still have tears falling and my body still trembles. But I also have peace because during so many traumatic experiences I was able to hold on to my faith and I knew that no matter what, God was there and I would be ok. So far, by the Grace of God, here I am. Our most wounded parts can have such a powerful force in our bodies and these can be triggered bringing up negative cognition, even body pain, bringing forth the need to still do some work for healing. The tears showed me that pain is still there from these experiences, but I am grateful to have an anchor in my faith to help me through.

What is your safe harbor? As we go through life and we live by faith we realize that some things we know through empirical evidence, undeniable, unquestionable, scientific data-based truths. Some things we know from the depths of our soul; in our hearts; to be difficult to withstand an argument because there is no proof; we just know it to be. To me God just is and it always was that way.

Science is essential. We certainly need researchers and scientists to find and develop the vaccine for the deadly virus we are dealing with. We need ways to develop strategies to slow global warming and scientists have a very important place there too. We need to fight against the verboten rules to living which were heavily imposed on us and will continue to be unless we set boundaries and take back our freedoms.

With all that said,  I challenge you to look beyond that. Place your hand on your chest—feel the heartbeat? Slow the outside influences and all the information channels which right now feed you fear, chaos, and uncertainty. Allow your heartbeat to be felt in your palm. Close your eyes, and place such energy into that heartbeat; just feel that. With your eyes closed now allow the feeling of that beat to take you to a place of stillness, peace, growth, magic, and see yourself be in this state of tranquility but strength. There is strength in peace and growth in clarity. Find your safe harbor and take it with you everywhere you go, allowing that peace to spread.

Now do not get me wrong. Being kind and peaceful does not make you weak; it empowers you. I recently read this: “Kindness / Loaning someone your strength instead of reminding them of their weakness.”  (Author unknown)

During the day I challenge you to anchor yourself in this state of mind by placing your hand on your chest and allowing your heartbeat to energize you again and take you to your safe harbor. Allow yourself to feel any negative emotions as well, make a note of that and instead of feeling stuck in these, allow fluidity to interweave new ways of thinking and feeling. When the emotional intensity lessens you will know that you are gaining ground and your sensory association with that memory will change. Do not allow these negative feelings to stick, feel it, let it go, and now return to our safe harbor, feeling stronger and empowered.

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