Thursday, September 4, 2008


A few weeks ago Momo did a post about smells. Smells that bring back memories. She asked us. her readers, to try and name what smells made us remember. At the time, the only one I could really remember- and it was only because Momo brought it up herself- was the smell of the hospital from when the boy was in there. I cannot smell antiseptic or hand sanitizer without being brought back to those days instantly.

Since she wrote that post I have not been able to get it out of my head. Each time I smell something and it triggers a memory it brings me right back. It instantly reminds me of her post and makes me focus on the memory.

Lately, I've found that I've been remembering a lot more. But it's not just smells.

My triggers and smells and moments.

I walked into the gymnasium at the school in which I teach and I was immediately brought back to February of 1995. I teach at a school that has my high school alma mater as a rival. We both had, and have, incredible basketball teams. We fought each other on the soccer field and the softball field. We were rivals in every sense of the word.

My basketball career was cut short on the court at the school in which I currently teach. I was a freshman in high school. I was starting on the JV team and swinging up to the Varsity team regularly. I was really doing well. I had coaches that encouraged me. I was having a pretty good time after a rocky start with grades. I remember the ride in the school van to the game. Our coach was a psycho driver. The windows didn't open on the van all the way and he was a dipper. He would spit into a gatorade bottle and then open the van door to dump his "juice" out. It was gross.

I was the only one "Brave" enough to sit shot gun.

It was supposed to snow that night. My dad was meeting me at the game. We were all geared up and excited for this contest. It was going to be a great game most likely followed the next day by a snow day.

It was early in the game. Probably close to second quarter, maybe about halfway through. We were on offense. I was down on the post and I planted my left foot and was trying to get free. The point guard, a sophomore girl who was pretty ok but basketball was not her ticket to celebrity or college, was bringing the ball down and looking to me under the basket. She wanted to get the ball underneath so we could score.

I was ready. Planted. I pivoted. And that was it.

The action was so fluid and effortless I don't remember how it even happened. I had made that move a million times before and never had the end result be what it was. I twisted, my leg twisted and yet it didn't. I wanted it to twist. I wanted it to turn towards the ball and be ready to turn and make the layup.

No. Such. Luck.

My leg stayed where it was, my knee did not. That was it. I was done. I was on the floor and could see that everything was wrong with my left leg. Things were in places where they were not supposed to be. I remember screaming. I remember the pain. I remember the sounds. I remember the way the bleachers looked full of people from my spot on the floor. I remember all of it.

Everytime I walk back into that gym and I smell it. The smell of varnish mixed with sweat. I remember. It's my trigger. It's my reminder of when I first allowed fear to take over.

I tried to get back in the game that night. No one would let me. I spent weeks on crutches and in therapy. I sat at practices and eagerly awaited the day that I could return. It did not come that season. I was not allowed to return my freshman season.

I chose not to return my sophomore. My fear of injury and pain and failure wouldn't permit me to. I wouldn't allow myself.

I smell that gymnasium on a daily basis now. My first year teaching was a constant reminder each time we held an event in there. Each time I saw a game. Each time I walked past. A constant reminder of how I allowed fear to take away one of the things I loved the most. One of the things that could have gotten me college for free at D-III school.

I was young. I was afraid. I hated pain. And it was easy to give in to the fear.

The car accident I had last year happened moments from my house. It happened on a road that I drive every day. On a curve that I take just about any time I go some place.

I don't remember every time I drive that road or that curve. But the times that I do, the memories are vivid and painful.

I remember seeing the car come at me. I remember thinking, "Oh, Shit, they're going to hit me." I think I may have even said that out loud. I remember the moments after when my children were silent and I was afraid to turn around for fear of what I'd see. I remember calling 911. I remember the phone call I made to my parents after my husband. I was hysterical. I remember hanging up with my mother and wanting to just pass out and the EMT in the car with me, not allowing me to. I remember the pain and the rain as they removed in my collar and on the back board.

All of those images run through my head when I remember that day. And more often than they bring me to tears. They regurgitate all of my fears from that day and the days that follow. Those images are what make me afraid to drive some days.

Those images, like that smell, are what keep the fear alive.

After getting hurt and abandoning my beloved sport I knew that I never wanted to allow fear to reign supreme again. I knew that I couldn't allow it.

In the weeks and months that followed the accident I worked very hard to put the fears aside. I worked very hard to get back into my car and drive it without thinking about every single other driver plowing into me. I worked very hard to feel comfortable in cars where other people were driving and I was not in control.

I worked very hard to make sure that I did not allow the fear to stop my life and take over.

The triggers are still there. They always will be. There will always be the memories and sometimes they may make me pause but they will not stop me.

The smells and the moments are not all bad. I recall the good things too. But sometimes the fear is what overwhelms us. The pain and the memories. It's in those times that I try and recall the good things. I try and remember the good smells and the good moments so that they can replace the fears and create new triggers.


goooooood girl said...
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Kate said...

That was a very powerful post. I think a lot of my fear triggers are memories of feelings that I had a lot when I was a kid. There are certain situations that put me right back in the shoes of the insecure person that I was. I try very hard to not go back there.

I hope you keep moving forward and away from the fear.

Caffeine Court said...

It's amazing how many memories certain smells or "odors" (HATE THAT WORD!! ) can bring back.

I have a terrible fear of car accidents or one of my children being hit by a car. Sometimes I can't fall asleep thinking about it.

I'm so sorry that you still have so much anxiety. I completely understand where you are coming from.

Helen E.M. Wright said...


Smells do bring things around. I find that music is a big one for me!

lattemommy said...

I find memory to be absolutely fascinating. It can be so incredibly powerful, as you well know. It can also seriously screw up people's lives. Bravo for not letting it do that to you. You are very brave.

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