This Is What Healing Looks Like
This is what healing looks like. It comes in fits and starts.
* * *
I know I am asleep. I know I am dreaming. But it feels so real and I let myself just sink into it. Sink into him. I have not dreamt about him in a long time but I still know his embrace by heart. I had memorized each muscle in his arms and the way each one felt holding me close to him and in my sleep it all comes back so clearly. Instead of pulling away, I just want to rest. So I do. I breathe him in and let him hold me and bury my body deeper into his chest until I can feel all the strength there too. His hand comes up to stroke my hair on the top of my head in just the spot I love and I exhale peacefully.
Then he starts speaking and he is saying the words I know are not true but are only too real. The words it took me a long time and a lot of work to untangle myself from. But he is speaking them so gently and sweetly. They are almost like a bedtime story. And I start to feel that feeling my therapist called “dissonance” – where the way things appear and the way I feel are not matching up and warning bells are going off. “No, no,” I say. “That’s not the way it was. Please, darling, just tell me the truth. I can stay here if you just tell me what really happened.” But he continues telling me the stories I cannot hear again and I pull away and wake up. In my groggy first wakefulness I am aware of two competing but equally strong emotions – a deep sense of loss and a deep sense of relief and I sit in the realness of the tension.
* * *
I take a chance on myself and on someone else and really on “dating in the age of Tindr” and go on a first date. My first first date in a long time and I wonder if I am ready or if I remember how to do this and then laugh because well, I was not very good at it the first time around either. So I decide not to have any expectations (good or bad) and I am pleasantly surprised by the human (though not romantic) connection we find by talking about our passions (mutual and separate) and my faith in humanity is restored a little more.
* * *
I have the same dream again but I do not linger this time because I know I will not truly find rest here. I wake up a little angry and a little sad and a little proud of myself for resisting the desire for a false sense of peace and security however brief and fleeting. I am also really curious. One of the things I have discovered in the last couple years is that I work out most of my emotions in pictures. Why does this picture keep returning to me? What am I processing through this image? Where am I? Do I feel tall and strong or weak and hunched over? What do I need? Where is God in this picture? I sit down to write but no words come so I put the picture aside and just lean into the questions.
* * *
One of my dear friends – who embodies life and vitality like few people I know – invites me to her showcase. I already had plans but something about this felt really important and was glad when I was able to find space to attend. Her beauty and vulnerability (along with the rest of the performers) lights up the stage and screen as she boldly and fearlessly shares her truth. I am energized and moved and a little bit in awe. There is something about the human soul when so transparently revealed that cannot help but humble me. I think we can get a glimpse of the Divine in the revealing of a fellow human’s soul. There is so much real and so much true and so much human. It feels holy.
* * *
I thought I had dealt with all the ghosts in this part of town. Slowly, gently, but intentionally I had met them all like “bosses” in a video game. Each new ghost I dealt with was a level up. I do not know if I had forgotten this one or if it had seemed too large to confront before now. Somehow I had managed to not drive down this part of this road for over two years and suddenly without warning I am forced to deal with the largest and most intimidating ghost of them all. The one that still has the power to send shivers up my back and call into question so much I thought I knew about me and us and love and life.
On the outside it looks like an on-trend furniture store. I try to reassure myself it is just a commercial space. It does not have the power to keep my heart chained to the past but my mind flashes back to the sweet but deadly words and the tender touch of my dream and I feel sick. Questions that will probably never be answered rush to the surface. There was a time when these questions would have overwhelmed me. This time I cry. I let myself feel all the fear and all the sadness and all the anger and all the pain and all the loss. I reveal my soul to me and to God as nakedly as I can. Then I breathe and leave the big, bad ghost behind reciting Rilke almost like a mantra.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
* * *
I sit down to write and the words and pictures of the past week come tumbling out. One after another. I do not know if I see meaning but I see healing. It comes in fits and starts. Some days I feel miles along in the journey and other days I feel like I have barely taken a few steps. But everyday feels purposeful and everyday feels real so I just keep walking.