Thank you for all of the love. We have so appreciated every call, text, visit, gentle hug and all of the prayers. I have literally felt them and watched them working as our bodies have healed. We are doing so well. Bruises are fading, muscles are relaxing and our arms are starting to be covered in brand new skin. We continue to be astounded by every moment of this process. We’ll never understand why we were able to walk away from something that should have destroyed us – and be basically back to good within three weeks’ time, but we are unspeakably grateful.
I have always learned best through metaphors, and even at that I can be a very slow learner. This physical healing process has been teaching me some things about emotional healing. One area that I’ve long thought to be one of my better attributes is in my ability to “get over it”, to move on, to accept change and not fight life’s twists and turns. The problem with this is that I can be very critical of people who aren’t like me. I’ve struggled to understand why people I love and care about seemingly “allow themselves” to get mired down in the pain of life and stay there. I’ve been amazed by and proud of people who are desperately honest about their struggles and hang ups, while also being terribly uncomfortable with their authenticity. Why would you tell people that?! Don’t you know when someone asks how you are doing, you’re supposed to say “fine, thanks” and leave it at that? In an effort to be a better friend and a better human, I’ve truly wanted to come to terms with this. I want to be more empathetic. I’ve even wanted to be better at being real with myself about myself. I’ve had a nagging suspicion that some of my “getting over it” has been “sweeping it under”.
I’m starting to wonder (please reference: slow learner) how I can apply what I’ve experienced the last few weeks to the future; not just for friends whose bodies are broken, but also as we walk together through emotional pain and heartache.
Show up: We told you that we were ok, we could take care of ourselves, and technically we could. You showed up anyway though. You didn’t just say “is there anything I can do?” you came in and did. You offered to run the vacuum and scrub the toilets, you brought meals, you cooked the food we had languishing in our refrigerator, you brought our favorite ice cream, you picked up prescriptions and made a special trip to deliver oils and ointments, you brought the mail up the lane, you combed my hair, you mowed our grass. You sat with us and listened to our story over and over. Those of you who were too far away to be there mailed cards and candy, sent messages, and continued to follow up day after day. You prayed. You made an incredible difference.
Ask where it hurts: One of the best lessons I learned about being a good human came from our three year old grandson. On his first visit to see us, we’d shown him where we were hurt so he could know to be gentle with us. The next time he came over he said “Nana, will you show me where your ouchies are again so that I can remember and not hurt you?” Then, as will inevitably happen when you’re an active little boy, sometimes he’d bump or jostle me and every single time he said “Sorry Nana, sorry that I hurt your ouchies.” He didn’t pretend that since he couldn’t see all of the bruises that they didn’t exist. He didn’t think that an unintentional bump wouldn’t hurt too much, or deserve an apology. I want to ask you, where does it hurt? Will you show me so that I can know where to be gentle with you? When I do say something that puts pressure on the painful areas, will I acknowledge it and apologize, every single time? Or, will I tell myself that I didn’t mean to hurt you, or if you weren’t so sensitive it wouldn’t matter?
It takes a while: Remember how I went to work on Tuesday morning after the accident? I was banged up, but really thought overall I’d be ok. The truth is even now with all of my pretty pink patched up skin and fading bruises, I’m exhausted. Knowing me, I’ll still be having bad dreams a year from now. The fact that I look alright and feel mostly ok most of the time doesn’t negate the reality that my body is working overtime to get back to good. The kindest thing I can do for myself is to rest as I can and continue to say “no thank you” to extra goings and doings for a while longer.
Honor the ugly: I won’t go into the gory details, but healing wounds look nasty. If you didn’t know what was going on and just saw our recovering road-rash about four days in, you would think we had some sort of medieval disease. We had to cover the furniture we sat on and strip the bed sheets each morning. It would have been easy to assume that something terrible was happening, but in reality something amazing was going on: our bodies were regenerating. We could have kept everything covered under wraps and gauze, pulled on oversized shirts and hidden the abrasions. Our doctor asked us to keep them in the open as long as we were in a safe (clean) environment. Only then did we start moving from open wounds to developing healing skin. So sure, there are times and places for keeping our pain private – but hiding it away indefinitely is detrimental and delays or completely inhibits the ability to heal.
Sometimes you need to take a pill: I had originally thought I could tough it out with a steady diet of Tylenol and ibuprofen, but on day three when my neck and shoulder muscles suddenly seized up and I could barely turn my head it was time for the big guns. I felt no shame in knowing that I needed stronger medicine to ease the pain and help my traumatized muscles relax. I’ve long been an advocate for medication for mental health needs and will reaffirm my position that God has given us doctors and medicine as part of his plan to heal our bodies – and minds.
Cry about it: I’m not sure exactly how to implement this one in my life moving forward as I’m not an easy crier, but I can see the beauty in it. The night of the accident and the following day I would cry on and off thinking about what could have been and also out of the intense gratitude for our lives and preservation. Then my tears dried up and I went back to my typical reaction of laughing when crying would be far more appropriate. I can’t fully describe what it was like to see my friends well up while hearing my story, all I can say is their tears washed me. Their willingness to be vulnerable and take my pain into themselves and mirror it back to me. I want that. I want to give that gift to others.
Tell your people: this seems obvious but with the exception of catastrophic events, even friends who care about you and love you dearly may not have any idea that you are hurting. Sometimes we feel connected because of the superficiality of social media, but can go weeks or years without sharing the real and true things about our lives.
Last night I laid in bed and wrestled with posting this at all because in comparison with the largest majority of the world, I know literally nothing about pain. My body has been basically healthy and while I’ve had bumps and snags along the way, almost any form of heartache I’ve experienced has been by my own hand. I know this though; life is too fragile and too precious to be carried alone. We need each other desperately. I’d love to know what your experiences with pain have taught you. If you are suffering from hurts that are new and deep, or old and throbbing with a dull ache, please know that I care. I cannot offer relief, but I can sit with you, I’ll honor the ugly, I’ll encourage you to take your time, I’ll probably laugh awkwardly when anyone else would cry – but I’ll apologize for that and ask you to keep telling me your story.13