One of the things I’ve said about my dad in – now both of – the eulogies I’ve given for him, is that my dad didn’t fear his own fear, so much as he feared my fear, he worried that it would keep me from living my fullest life. Perhaps then, I should see facing a fear this week as, yet another tribute to him.
Returning to the Scene, Reliving Trauma
To say that the experiences of the last year have left me with PTSD, would be to devalue those who truly suffer; but, to say that the traumas of the last year have left a mark would be fair and true. The very idea of touching down again in Jamaica has left me carrying a large and at times all encompassing burden over the last few weeks.
For most of the last decade, my first thoughts when landing in Jamaica – either at Kingston or Montego Bay – have been, “why did I do this again?” On this particular trip, I instead started asking this of myself as soon as I booked the tickets. I started to wonder if I could really handle returning to the Island that I (admittedly, irrationally) view as having stolen my Father from me, a place where he was injured and where he suffered, a place where I felt trapped?
Making a Decision, to Face My Fear
I’ve always been an introvert, and before I understood why crowds were so draining, I feared them, I feared new places and new people. One summer in my tweens, I packed up for Doe Lake Girl Guide Camp fearing the worst – being stuck for a week with STRANGERS. But I decided to try to flip my thinking; to decide that I would imagine the worst, resolve that I could handle it, and then face day head-on.
That decision to face a simple week at Camp head-on, was not only one of (if not the) first life experiments that I ever conducted; long before life experiments were a thing I now do often, and that we talk about in society (and on the internet) as a regular part of daily discourse. Of course, it worked, my worst fears were not realized – everyone in my tent did not hate me to the point of exclusion and bullying, the bugs were bad (but not that bad), and I managed not to get hopelessly lost in the woods by myself.
And so, I decided again this week, that I would reach deep into my “tool box” of coping mechanism, and decide to imagine the worst – a paralysing, crushing, anxiety that would keep me from sleeping, from ever feeling safe for a moment; a fear so pervasive that it would leave me on high-alert adrenaline pumping for 49 hours straight.
Finding Relief, Thank You Jamaica
It is true, that the only way to beat something, is to face it head-on, and then to overcome it. In this case, I had my habits to help me find momentum – my worst case scenario visioning; my travel ritual – a bottle of water and a Vanity Fair Magazine, which helps each new voyage feel familiar somehow; and my knowledge and trust in my anchor, my family.
I landed at Kingston’s Norman Manley feeling freer than I remember ever feeling, noting; the flyover where I looked out the window placing landmarks I know so well; the familiar approach and landing on the Palisadoes; the terminal I’ve walked so many times. I was HOME, and I felt little apprehension.
Jamaica rolled out her warm-salt-air red carpet; I cannot thank enough my Uncle and Aunt who looked after every logistical aspect of my visit; the wonderful friends and family who joined in celebrating my Dad’s Jamaican memorial – including; his Brother Richard and Cousin Jenny Blake; and the Manchester Golf Club (the oldest in the Western Hemisphere) who mounted the 2019 Bruce Russell Memorial Golf Tournament, and served as the perfect backdrop to remember my dad.
Perhaps seeing Kingston, not as I saw it often last year, in daylight – her citizens going about their lives, mothers with babies, and people going about their work and shopping; being reminded that there are good, decent, and loving people in Jamaica; and, coming face-to-face with all those who mourn and miss my dad; has helped me let go of the some of the trauma I was carrying.
Moving Forward, a Burden Lifted
I left Jamaica, just about 50 hours after I had returned; lighter; freer; and reenergized by the beauty of The Land of Wood and Water, and the beauty of her people. And I feel it now, when I reflect on needing to go back, or to the possible return of my (now only living) Parent, I don’t feel the crushing fear, the rising anxiety, the inability to shout down that loudest voice.
Thank You Jamaica, I needed that closure.
**Note, only the trophy image was captured on this VERY SHORT trip**