An excerpt from the Goodreads description: Born in the Philippines, young Grace Talusan moves with her family to a New England suburb in the 1970s. At school, she confronts racism as one of the few kids with a brown face. At home, the confusion is worse: her grandfather’s nightly visits to her room leave her hurt and terrified, and she learns to build a protective wall of silence that maps onto the larger silence practiced by her Catholic Filipino family.
It’s rare that I read a memoir so quickly, and rare that I’m emotionally affected by the narrator’s life. The Body Papers by Grace Talusan hit both.
The pacing was brisk, the images vivid. Grace Talusan connects us with her story and what it was like to grow up in one of two Filipino families in a small town in Massachusetts. We travel back to the Philippines with Grace when she’s an adult and see the country through her eyes. This book was better and more vivid than any movie.
She also shares her childhood trauma with us in a way that is relatable and poignant.
I took a couple days off from posting. Not from writing down my gratitude lists, but from declaring them publicly. I needed to rest. So rest I did.
I’m not usually the type of person to give myself permission to rest. I’ve been feirly busy since I was a teen in high school with a couple of jobs, extracrricular activity, you name it. Then later, full time schooling, jobs, activities.
Starting a family added to the busy. Still I managed to go to work, have kids, get a secondary degree. I never felt like I could rest, even when I wanted to.
Not too long ago, I had a job that ratcheted up the imbalance of obligation and work to never before seen heights. In part, the imbalance was set by trauma. More than six catastrophic events, at least that’s what the post-critical-incident debriefing therapist told me, had occurred in approximately six months.
I could feel every one of those events, ringing in my bones like the thrum of a singing bowl. Or the scrape of nails on blackboards. If you know what a blackboard is, you’re of a certain age. Mature, like me.
After leaving the super catastrophic situation I was in, I found I no longer wanted to burn for work, for obligation, for anything that wasn’t in line with a higher vision for me. And so I took a good hard look at what mattered.
Then the pandemic made me take many more moments to consider what matters.
The bottom line is this: rest is essential.
We can work hard and drive at a target. That’s commendable. But we may burn out. Burn up. Land face down in the dirt. And it’s hard to get up when you’ve turned yourself into a twitching, irritable individual who trusts no one.
But taking rest when needed is not a bad thing. It’s actually a very good thing. Rest. If that means sleeping, or lounging, or just putting a few strong goals aside until your energy is up again.
It’s like running and walking. If you alternate, you last longer. You can go miles with intervals, when you may not be able to go very far at all on a sprint.
Meanwhile, my gratitude is for those who have helped me learn how to, remember how to, and feel ok with taking time to rest.
I’m grateful for the lesson. Thankful that I “got it” after all these years.
Having a few moments today where I kinda want to crawl under the covers and wait there until January. I now understand how past trauma can actually be cumulative. Say, a person who hasn’t dealt with too much stress in their lives could perhaps manage an acute crisis slightly better than a person who has had multiple and serious trauma. It seems like certain parts of the brain light up like a Christmas tree when faced with crisis after having been faced with crisis before. One positive thing: depending on what the person has survived before, there’s some awareness and faith that survival is possible. There’s truth in the saying “This Too Shall Pass” but why does it feel like passing a particularly large kidney stone?
And for those following my posts generally, at least it’s not COVID. Thanks for your well wishes and prayers. I still want a cozy blanket and a pass to hide out for a little while. Might have to do just that.