Trauma Bears and Apology TikToks

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Here’s another model for checking in: Body, feelings, thoughts.

My body feels TIRED. My eyes are droopy. I just napped and could have stayed napping. I’ve been tired for about…Ten years.

My breathing is somewhat shallow. My body feels tight in various places: lower back, legs, chest, neck, jaw, head.

Beyond exhaustion, I feel: Frustration. Sadness, loneliness. I feel love for my dog (mistyped, “god”), who is curled up next to me and wearing his post-surgical cone.

My mind, my ego races around my to-do list and chastises me for being unproductive. I am surrounded by to-do lists, which mostly serve to remind me what I am not doing. My mind is slow, tired. Thinking about what to write. Worries and doubts about what I am doing, whether I should be doing it, and so on.

And with that I am in. Now you go.


I’ve posted my first apology TikTok, which came about like this: I was posting a series of videos on active listening (starting with this one). Squirrel adopted a snarky east coast tone about non-active listening.

By the third video, I noticed a string of comments along a similar theme: Folks identifying as “ND” who relied what I was calling not-listening to listen to people in their lives.  Some of them were pretty hurt.

I was dismayed to see that I had caused offense with my videos. This is not in line with Squirrel’s sacred mission. First I felt ashamed, and then, thanks be to Saint Brené Brown, I got curious.

I learned that ND is shorthand for neurodivergent, which stems from the neurodiversity movement. As I understand the movement, it seeks to depathologize variations in human neurology, for instance Autism and ADHD (both of which we popularly label as disorders, grimace emoji).

I was particularly stung by a commenter who outed me as NT, eg neurotypical. I’ve never felt typical in any way. And for a couple of years now I’ve identified as a highly sensitive person (HSP). Being an HSP can be a lonely endeavor. So please, NDs, let me into your club.

So my commenters taught me a lesson about neurodiversity, and being impeccable with my words. And I was heartened by the some of the commenters who came forth with full-throated defenses of ND life. ND pride!

When I posted my apology video, I was met with sweetness and forgiveness from my little audience.

Squirrel walks on, and I follow in his paw prints.


>>>For some reason 50,000 people watched this Squirrel TikTok on loneliness and attachment trauma. That video alone has lured 2,000 followers to the Acorn Banner of Peace.

>>>Some humor. Life on Orcas, Section 17: Investing in Property

From my ongoing series Life on Orcas.  I wrote the first few for island open mic nights. I read them in a chummy informational video voice. Really they ought to be videos. So you’ll have to imagine that. A friend recently suggested I make the series into a coffee table book for the tourists who are ravaging my home. Such a good idea.

Maybe read the next part first. And then finish with Life on Orcas. End on a funny note.


For about a year I’ve had this concept bouncing around in my head. I want to make a book about childhood and intergenerational trauma in the form of a picture book. I’m imagining a spoof of books like Arthur, The Berenstain Bears, and so on.*

Side note, ever since I was a kid I loathed Arthur and the Berenstain Bears. So, revenge?

Working title is Trauma Bears.

I have deep ambivalence about sharing how intergenerational trauma has passed down through my family. I believe it is meaningful and helpful to share this story, to destigmatize and normalize trauma. I’ve mostly gotten over the shame of sharing my own story. But to tell this story I must necessarily talk about living family members and ancestors. And given the themes of mental illness, abuse, and trauma, I’m hesitant to speak about them publicly.

So let me introduce you to the Bear family.


Chapter One

A family of bears lived in a house by the sea. There was Dad Bear and Mom Bear. They had two little boy bears: Big Bear, and Little Bear.

Most days, Dad Bear went to work and Mom Bear stayed home with the boy bears. Dad Bear was a much loved doctor in the town of Bear Harbor.

The Bear home always smelled good because Mom Bear was an excellent cook. And it often sounded good too because Mom Bear was also a gifted musician.

Big Bear was industrious and creative. He liked to build things with blocks, to draw strikingly well-rendered cars and boats. He wanted to design cars when he grew up.

Little Bear was quiet and spent most of his days deep in his imagination.  He would sit in a nook and play out elaborate melodramas with his toys.  He drew entire worlds, empires, on big sheets of paper. He wanted to be a doctor like Dad Bear when he grew up.

Visitors, friends, family, would stop by and delight in the Bear family. Mom Bear was a natural host: Charismatic, quick-witted, and funny.  Dad Bear would quietly sit  back and let Mom Bear do the talking. He seemed happiest in the background, smiling as his wife carried the party.

The boy bears were the kind of good little bears that delighted adults. Well-mannered, precocious, given to the occasional sharp witticism.

As the visitors left the Bear house, they’d admire the water view, and the late model Volvo, and relish the pleasing meal in their stomachs, and think, what a nice family.

Chapter Two

Little Bear is afraid and running. Behind him, a thundering sound—Footsteps. Each footfall is matched by a clenching in Little Bear’s gut. Danger. Danger. Danger.

Little Bear is very small and the danger behind him is very big, impossibly big, a god, a celestial body. The Sun is mad at him.

He runs to through the dark hallways of the house. He is seeking safety from the awful roiling danger behind. He is seeking Mom Bear.

And he finds her. There she is at the end of the hall. He runs to her. He falls into her legs, he clings to her. For dear life. Because behind, are the footsteps. Closer, closer.

His body prepares to die. Cortisol and adrenaline floods his blood. He holds his breath. His little bear heart hammers. He turns, and he can’t look, he can’t look at the figure looming so high over him. He can’t look at the eyes, but he can feel them.

Above him a version of Dad Bear stands. It is not Dad Bear from the dinner party, from the quiet moments at home. It is a frightful rage mask of Dad Bear. His face is contorted into a ghoulish scowl, his mouth an upside down U of profound unhappiness. His eyes are the worst of all. Little Bear won’t look, as if that will save him, but he can feel the heat. He risks a glance, and sees two black eyes, intent, staring, glaring. They are the eyes of a shark in frenzy, a wolf before the bite. Missing, entirely, is his Dad Bear.

“NO,” thunders Dad Bear, and it hits Little Bear like a closed fist.

Little Bear cringes and cries and clings to Mom Bear but then she eases from his grip and walks away and he is as alone as any bear has ever been.  It’s the scariest battle he will ever know, and he will fight it as a child, and he will fight it alone.


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