Overwhelmed

I smell

Burlap, sweet and dusty, like old hay;

Sandalwood, jasmine and cedar

Burning in harsh incense;

Pink rose petal candles;

Musk perfume of the person next to me;

Lotion on my hands.

If I just sit here quietly.

If I hold my body tense.

If I don't move or talk.

 

I see

Hundreds of papers covering the walls.

Flyers announcing projects and events,

Pictures, assignments,

A large paper Easter Bunny;

Pink ruler, blue paint, green paint,

Bright colors dancing across the teacher's clothing,

Purple, orange, red, blue;

Red moving lips, telling me something

I can't hear.

 

What color is this?

Blue.

What color is this?

Blue.

What color is this?
 

Blue, Um. Royal blue?

What color is this?

Purple? Violet?

 

I feel

Coarse, abrasive burlap on my skin,

Itching, moving, tickling,

Irritating my arm, my back, my chest;

My hair falling in my face,

Touching my cheek:

Cold air draft on my exposed feet

Sharp, splintering thorns on my fingertips

Stop moving around, you'll distract the others.

It's only your clothing.

 

I hear

Voices, from a speaker behind me

An intercom announcement

Tick, Tick, Tick

Loud sounds of a construction site

Conversations of the people beside me

Angry yelling of the woman from the back row

Tick-Tick, Tick-Tick, Tick-Tick

 

Listen carefully,

there's going to be a test.

Why can't you hear the video?

The volume is up

It must be something wrong with you.

Loud noises won't stop

I can't hear what I am supposed to.

"Don't fidget, place both feet on the ground."

Is that bottle really blue?

I don't know the answers anymore.

My head hurts

Itching, can't help scratching,

Want this abrasive burlap off my skin

"Stop thinking about it"

Bright, florescent, glaring

Just focus, focus

Why can't those people stop chatting?

Burning, itching eyes

Harsh, everything's jarring

I need to get out of here

Think about nothing

 

Retreat. Shut down

I don't hear the sounds from the other students.

I don't hear the story from the video.

I don't smell the incense,

see the colors.

Time passes,

and the "class" continues around me.

 

Safety

Leaving the room,

Out of the chaos

Back in a safe environment

My body reemerges from the place my mind had sent it.

My senses reawaken.

Tears - as my emotions begin to live again,

I am overwhelmed.

 

Calm - a world without the tick-tick, tick-tick.

The sounds of the intercom

The conversations of the people behind me.

Without 5 separate and distinct smells:

Without burlap for clothing.

But I still feel it

Hear it

And Smell it all.

 

It was only an hour.

An hour in a world of overwhelming

Input of smells, sights, sounds and feelings.

Where I could not rely on my intellect

To solve the problem.

I only had an hour,

Not day after day, of the chaos

 

I learned

I am less adaptable than I thought.

My behavior, and the behavior of others in the room

Surprised me.

When bombarded with input and chaos

Our minds and bodies did

Whatever was necessary to cope with the situation,

At that point it is not about processing

It is about getting by.

 

I see and admire

Strength - to face that world of chaos every day;

Power - to cope when overwhelmed;

Spirit - that keeps going,

Even when the body and mind must retreat into shutdown.

 

Carolina D. Watts (Attorney)