I have not written a single word in over a month and, strangely enough, I have not felt compelled to.
It certainly hasn’t been for a lack of things to write about. Admittedly, there are fewer things now to get out of my system than there were a year ago. But there are still ‘things,’ nonetheless. I still maintain my list of bullet points (http://remembering-my-journey.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-i-write.html) – phrases, sentences, or partial sentences just waiting to be elaborated upon and written up into a post. Today, there are 6 bullet points on the list, to be exact, drawn up over the past several months.
But I find that I am bored by my own list. Events that have occurred recently, which at one time would’ve been ‘juicy’ fodder for a blog post, now appear ‘stale’ somehow. The silence is not a reflection of the fact that nothing has transpired, but rather of the fact that I no longer find some of these events remarkable.
I thought to myself the other day: This must be what healing feels like.
Not the instant-miracle-type healing. But the conventional kind – the kind where you feel every bit of the pain … until you don’t. The kind that is by the every day, banal sort of faith. You know: the sort of faith that gets you up every morning and makes you keep moving, get through the day, and prepare for the next – not knowing exactly what tomorrow holds, but figuring that as long as you’re alive and breathing without medical assistance (and even if you aren't), you are operating in a context of possibilities – anything can happen. Convinced that as long as you have a precious, precious life, you might as well live it and use it.
It hasn’t been the ‘sudden healing’ type of experience. I have felt everything I needed to feel. I have been busy raising and trying to organize the lives of two children – each at very different stages of development, and both growing in every way at an incredible pace; busy surviving in an NGO-world with less funding than ever and more responsibilities and pressure as a result; busy trying to contribute in my own little way to ensuring that my church home thrives and is a refuge for others while remaining meaningful for me, too; busy trying to identify and invest in things that will help take care of me when I’m no longer young enough and strong enough to work as hard as I do now.
As I thought about writing this section of this post, I was prompted to go back and re-read a couple of pages from Jessica Bram’s Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of aJoyful Journey. I share an excerpt from this book below (pp. 181-182). It is lengthy but worth sharing and drives home the point:
The lawyer held his pen over a yellow pad. “When it comes to custody decisions, the court always considers the degree of each parent’s prior involvement with the children. Let me ask you a few questions. Which of you schedules pediatrician visits and takes them to appointments?”
“I do, of course,” I answered.
“What about play dates with other children?” I did that, too.
“Buys them their clothes? Shoes? Vitamins?” Yes, also me.
“I want you to make two lists and bring them to me next time we meet,” said the lawyer. “On one page I want you to list all the items you do related to the children – every last thing – everything you arrange or buy or do for them. On the other list, write down all the things your husband does for them.”
I started on my list on the train home that afternoon. One page quickly filled, followed by another. First came the major responsibilities, which I admitted were mine: researching preschools and then enrolling them; furnishing their rooms; planning and preparing meals; scheduling pediatric appointments for checkups, immunizations, and illnesses. These were followed by the less obvious: planning birthday parties; buying school supplies; signing them up for swim lessons, gymnastics, and art programs; keeping their toys organized and battery-stocked; monitoring and replacing outgrown clothes; packing backpacks. Then I got down to a staggering amount of minutiae: clipping fingernails; sewing on Boy Scout patches; buying gifts for other children’s birthday parties; filling out permission slips and absence notes; taking them for haircuts.
By the third page, I was flabbergasted by the volume of work that caring for three children entailed. I had never stopped to look at it that way.
Then I began the list of my husband’s responsibilities. Baths. Putting them to bed with bedtime stories. Boy Scouts. The fun stuff. Oh, yes, and he attended Open School nights and parent teacher conferences.
There were four items on his list. There had to be more, I thought. He was the real parent, wasn’t he? But that was it. Four items, to my seventy-nine.
I held the lists up side by side and began to cry. I hadn’t really been sure that I was all that important to my sons.
My point is that I deeply relate to this level of activity in my life as a mother and I’m sure many other women reading this will, too. Frighteningly, this is only one component of my life. With all this activity and more, it’s understandable that I’m sometimes caught off guard when I’m hit by a sudden pang of grief, provoked for a minute by some random memory. I do not live my life wallowing in grief and so I’m usually unprepared for this unexpected visitor. I’m surprised that this tiny pang is powerful enough to penetrate the many layers of my life and make me actually notice.
But feeling a pang or two now and then is part of the healing process, I think – a sign of some serious progress, even. (It’s a pang now and then, as opposed to a full-blown wave.) Sort of like when a scab begins to form over an open wound. The tightness of the scab causes twinges of pain initially, but the pain is no less a sign that some major healing processes have occurred. And that the end is in sight. The scab will eventually give way to nature, loosen up, and then disappear. There might always be reminders of the wound, though, just like an indelible mark from a wound that has healed will always serve as a reminder. I suppose it’s a lot like the kind of healing I have gradually experienced in regard to my father’s death. It is still deeply painful to think about it, but thinking about it does not practically incapacitate me like it would have six years ago. I have not ‘forgotten’ and I do not want to forget. But I can say that I am as ‘healed’ from that experience as I will ever be. Despite this healing, I will always carry a considerable amount of the pain with me. And I welcome this pain because I always unabashedly treasured and always will unabashedly treasure my father.
In the same way, I welcome these unexpected pangs of pain now and then. They remind me that I was once part of something that was meant to be really special – a deep, deep covenant. Before I got married, I always treasured the idea of marriage, having no inkling of what it could potentially involve. During my marriage, I treasured the reality of (my own particular) marriage, believing that two people on the same page could conquer the world, even if my then spouse and I were not. Post-marriage, I still treasure the notion of a real marriage. I do so unabashedly.
I look back now and I am proud of the 26 year-old me who – ignorant and naïve as she was – dared to dream and enter into marriage with all her heart. I am proud of the 36 year-old me who found the courage to face some hard truths about her life, and to make a distinction between a dream and a nightmare. I am proud of the lessons I have gleaned – the soon-to-be-forty-one-year-old me – older, wiser, and more alive now than I have ever been in my adult life.
If this is what healing feels like, then it isn’t half bad.