One of the unintended consequences of my recent trauma has been a profound sense of disconnection from my life. I’m certain there are lots of reasons for this. Life literally stopped for a couple months, weakness and pain kept me close to home, and dealing with the emotional, physical, and spiritual aftermath has been no joke. I have been so grateful for the space, the time, and the grace to move through my own process of healing. I’ve found the silence healing. I’ve spent time reading. I’ve snuggled close to my husband and children. It feels as though I’ve let go, somehow, and just life move on without me.
As someone who often lives as though I’m the center of the universe, this process has been very good for me. I need to be reminded that there are very few people who cannot carry on without my attention or practical care. I need to put down the weight of expectation and responsibility. I need to let go of my need to be needed and find my place not as a care giver but as a fellow traveler.
But if I’m honest, this disconnection has been a necessary part of my healing. The most painful part of my difficult walk through cancer and recovery was not my own pain and disorientation, but the impact on others. For the past few months, I have actively neglected connection. The experience of my community walking through this difficult journey is one of multiplied grace as well as multiplied pain.
When cancer hit my life, so many in my world were shocked and torn by the force of it. It broke my heart to watch tears run down Colonel Jim’s face as we stood in the pews after Sunday morning service. I felt the tender care of friends reaching out to reassure, protect, and encourage me. My heart was wrung by the calls, messages, and notes from far and near. The internal recoil of my children to the news that I was mortal and vulnerable shook their world and mine as well. Keith’s constant and precious presence from beginning to end, marked my heart in powerful ways. As he watched me walk through a process he could not attend, I experienced a grief and pain that is common to old love.
There is a part of me that could pull away and isolate myself from all of this. In fact, in the weeks and months since my surgery I have to some extent. I felt like a shell of myself, walking through the daily-ness of my life, but without my heart and soul. I could feel people reaching out to me, but I could not, dared not respond.
As I allowed silence and space to make room for emotions, I’ve found that they just need to come. I don’t have to do anything about the fear, just feel it and let it go. I can acknowledge the grief mixed with joy as it moves through my body. I can pay attention to the way both anxiety and excitement bubble in my belly. I can express my anger and open my heart with gratitude. Here in the quiet, under all of this swirl of emotion, I have found stillness and peace.
I know what healing looks like for me. It reaches out to connect. When my heart feels stronger, I always long for connection and interaction. It also looks like creativity. When my soul longs to take hold of dreams and look for ways to bring them to life. Healing isn’t a straight line, and it really isn’t a destination. I think it is a process. A process of acknowledgement, of grace, and of moving forward again.
On the other side of all of this, I am certain of a couple things.
One job: The same job that brought me to my surgery as whole and healthy as I could possibly be, is mine on this side. Maybe that is my whole job. To tend to my life in such a way that I can show up every day as whole and healthy as I can possibly be. I think taking responsibility for the way I show up in my life might just change everything.
Staying connected: Although the connections tore me apart through this process, they also helped pull me back together. The relationships we share, are really the only way to touch the eternal in this life. How we live, the importance of the love and intention we give to one another cannot be overstated. This is what the best lives are made of.
Live alive: Facing the hardest days of my life forced me to evaluate everything. I realized that much of my life has been lived in expectation or regret. I’ve spent too much time leaning forward worrying about the things that might be, or leaning back into the realm of what has already been. Life however, is lived now in this moment. In the wake of all that has happened over the past few months, that has never been clearer to me.
I am confident that healing is happening. Life is moving forward and I am finding myself seeking out connection. I am stepping back into the flow of my life and reestablishing the connections I need to flourish.
Keith and I spent Saturday night with good friends. We laughed and toasted marshmallows over the fire. We talked honestly about hard things. I shared my experience of this season and heard how it impacted them. Our conversation waded into deep waters and we dared to expose things that still hurt.
I had breakfast recently with a friend who’s known me over half of my life. As we ate our eggs, we caught up on recent developments, and future dreams. We wiped tears from our eyes as we talked about the hard parts and giggled together like school girls. We are planning for the future together and apart.
Last night, I sat with a friend for hours talking about the impact of this on my life. We talked about failures and lessons learned, hopes and dreams for the future, and new ways of being in the world. We celebrated new possibilities and talked of letting go of the past.
This is it for me, really. I need both, the silent solitude and the deep engagement of friendship. I am certain I cannot live without both in my life. At this point, I am sure that learning to move in and out of these things is my best hope of wholeness. I cannot live too long in silence, nor too exposed to the depth without risking some essential elements of my own heart. So, for now, I am learning to ebb and flow and trying to establish these new rhythms in my life.