I flew back to California on August 29th, a little over a year since I had my first full-blown PTSD breakdown in Auntie’s apartment. This time I walk through the chaos of LAX alone, my mother on the other side of the country unaware of this second journey west.
The foliage is brown and crinkly as I walk down Loma Avenue, not as colorful as last year.
California is in a severe drought. Water, a precious commodity. Sun beats down on the beach. Waves crash onto the shore. On Venice beach, I begin to wade out into the surf, convinced that I am a strong swimmer, able-bodied; surely these tall churning water walls can’t take me. I stand with my feet buried in the cool, shifting sand, water hitting my ankles. I study the waves in the near distance, and listen to the quiet lull before the inevitable crash.
My daydreaming is interrupted by a strong wave. It slams into me, picks me up off my feet and throws me onto my right hip. The rough sand rubs against my hip making me feel as though I’m being pulled across rough carpet and getting rug burn. Each time I begin to stand the strength of the current pulls me back down under another ravenous wave. I grab the moving sand as if it could stop the cold Pacific water from sucking me further into its grip. For a brief moment, I panic, think oh shit I’m going to get pulled out to sea.
At some point, I begin laughing each time I’m knocked down. I feel both foolish and anxious as the strong waves pull me in over and over until I stumble out of the water and up onto the wave-beaten shore.
A short Hispanic women stands with a small child, watching this Midwestern woman struggling in the waves. We meet eyes. I laugh. She laughs. We exchange brief chit-chat. I wish her a pleasant day and walk toward my towel. Auntie sits at the tip of the beach, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
This day at Venice Beach is a perfect metaphor for the tumultuous events of recent months. I am back on shore and ready to continue this journey between what is and what was, between past and present, between the child and the adult, between the survivor and the thriver.