Triggers in the Wild

It happened again last night.

I saw someone from Our Story out of context.

We were at a community event, both my kids and me.

A man passed by and he looked familiar. Something about the dark hair and glasses. My eyes kept wandering back to him because I couldn’t figure out how I knew him but wanted to.

He was handsome enough, though not my type. Dressed casually and getting a treat with his daughter. It was a gorgeous evening—our intense Midwest heat had finally let up a little—and, like everyone else around us, he carried a light mood.

He was smiling. Comfortable. Confident. Enjoying an easy evening, not a care in the world.

I finally placed him, split-second type thing,

and in the same moment it hit me how incredibly wild and unsettling it is to witness, out in real and everyday life, the family court judge who — just a couple short years ago — arrogantly and aggressively failed to do what’s right for your own custody case.

Sure enough, it was him. Strolling around, chatting with folks, no idea that within feet existed one mom and two teenagers whose lives he’d had the power to affect in the most positive and protected ways… and yet absolutely had not.

If I’d had my druthers — and more extroverted tendencies — I’d have approached him. I’d have brought attention to the fact that he walks around so sure of what he does dressed in that black robe, with that wooden gavel, even though he’s got it all wrong. I am proof. Let me be the evidence.

But I didn’t. Inappropriate time, unfortunate place. I’d already had a bad week and a worse day, so was in no shape to engage with someone so relevant to the life my kids and I have been living—both despite and because of his effect on it.

And it doesn’t matter anyway.

We can’t force justice, during or after the fact. Especially at a small-town community event years later.

We can’t force closure from someone else in our post-abuse journey.

What we can do — despite that people (sometimes powerful people) get it wrong — is keep going. We can handle the cards we’re dealt. We can figure out how to grow around the unfair bullshit that’s beyond our control, and learn to focus on what IS in our control. That is our power, reliant on no one else.

We can rally yet again, over and over, and know we’ve continued to do right by our kids, and by our own selves through everything.

We can tend to and heal ourselves so well that the triggers are fewer and further between, even so much so that seeing someone unexpected out in public becomes but a blip in our awareness.

And the next day we can carry on in our strength, in everything we’ve done so well despite what tried to take and keep us down.

I am proof. Let me (and my kids) be the evidence.

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