There is a feeling that forms in the pit of your stomach when an unanticipated and unwelcome situation makes itself known.
The feeling itself is familiar, in a sickening, dreadful way. In equal parts, this particular sensation is the clench of anxiety, the drop of denial, and the heave of shame, blended together in such a delicate balance that in this particular combination is clearly representative of a very specific set of circumstances.
And you are grateful that you are already in the bathroom.
It is a feeling you have fought down by sheer will for years now, choosing to see the bright side, to bestow the benefit of the doubt, to take a deep breath and tell yourself there is a perfectly logical explanation to everything, it's just not always apparent. It is the feeling that has taught you to be zen despite all of your internal imbalances and quirks, to be able to step out of yourself and have compassion and empathy for the common people you come across because you never know someone's life, what they're dealing with. Things like road rage and snark melt away and it is almost peaceful despite the accusations that you've lost your edge and your sense of humour. It inspires you to change who you are as a person and the decisions you make about how to live your life and interact with the world. The feeling has left you broken beyond your wildest imagination and the efforts at which you go to never feel it again in as healthy of a way as possible has rebuilt you into someone you are proud of, comfortable to be, someone you finally believe in and can finally have confidence in.
Even when sometimes, it pops up so suddenly it knocks you to your knees -- a familiar face you'd rather not have seared to your brain appears in your news feed; the security code on a phone being changed unannounced; a cheap make-up brush and long, black hair that greet you in your bathroom as you return from a conference.
And when your replacement phone wants to sync calendars with an email address you don't recognize.
You have learned to temper the feeling's shock waves as they ripple through your brain and bones but in your heart of hearts, you know what this means.
You know it is not about you, is not a reflection upon you or your worth or even your attractiveness. You are able to sever yourself from the shame and the initial hurt while wishing there was something like bleach for the brain, or maybe that machine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, even though it didn't really work, in the end. And the anger and disgust subside more quickly because you know there's no use in holding on to the negative because it will eat you alive and make you a monster and you have two children who are going to need you more than anything right now.
But you still cry, when it's quiet at night and you're alone in your bed. You still shake every time you contact your support system, to set off the fire chain you know you will need in play because this will get harder before it gets easier. You dismiss the rubberneckers and you hunker down and find things to keep you moving -- the laundry, errands, playing in the snow in the front yard before naptime.
You know how this goes.
There is nothing certain about the lives we lead. Things come and go and are easy and are hard and sometimes your best effort is rewarded and sometimes it's not and all you can do is just keep your head up and keep moving, with the knowledge that someday, no matter what happens, you will be okay. There is no need to rush head first into anything, just always cross your t's and dot your i's and make multiple sets of copies. Always be prepared, the Girl Scouts and your own life have taught you as much.
For now it is moment to moment, day to day. The house still needs run, the pets need food and the kids will need extra hugs and a lap to sit in and a shoulder to cry on even if they don't really understand why they feel as they do. There is very much still a life to be lived, and you will live it, because that's what survivors do.
And you have never been anything short of a fearless survivor.