Becoming Bethany

Observations on becoming and being

Month: June, 2016

This Should Not Be Normal

This should not be normal.

It should not be routine or common to read a news headline and reach for my phone to WhatsApp my parents or my siblings or my friends to make sure they are all safe. To make sure that they were not in the wrong place at the wrong time this time. And by wrong place I mean that they were not at the grocery store or on the bus or metro coming home from work or in the airport waiting for a flight or visiting with friends at a cafe somewhere.

Can you feel it in your gut? That hot angry feeling that just comes bubbling up until your cheeks are warm and forehead is flushed and your eyes are teary. That feeling that says, “No! Not again. This is not right.”

That’s the feeling I get every time “BREAKING NEWS” appears in a tweet or the voice of the news announcer that drifts through the restaurant I am eating at or the headline that appears at the top of my homepage. When I hear the news, my first hope is that it is not a city I know, a city I love.

And then I feel guilty because I know there are families in those cities too whose loved ones are not coming home from the grocery store or from work or from school or from traveling abroad. And I mourn for those families too.

But when it is a city that I know, a city that I love, the pain cuts all the deeper. I have stood on that corner where a desperate young man just took his life and the life of 7 others next to him. I have taken a bus from that depot where someone left a carbomb timed to explode right at rush hour. I have waited for so many flights in that terminal that is now covered in the blood of perpetrator and victims.

My heart hurts and my head is heavy and arms are leaden because I do not know what I can do. But I want to make it stop. Who can I talk to? Who can I listen to? Who can I offer a helping hand to? Who can I love? What can I do?

But I do not want my heart to stop hurting when it does happen. I do not want my anger at the injustice to become anger at the people involved. I do not want to stop being shocked because I keep hoping and praying that each time is the last time. I do not want this to be normal or expected.

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Beginning to Forget

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I am beginning to forget.

I am beginning to forget the gut level pain that kept me up at night and the way it felt to walk around with my heart so constricted that I could not breathe too deeply without getting sick. I am beginning to forget all the tears and how my eyes were dry from crying too much by the end of the day. I am beginning to forget the confusion and anger that would suddenly hijack my sight so I would have to intentionally and carefully breathe to be present again. I am beginning to forget the feeling of being so lost and so directionless that even physically walking in circles felt like going somewhere.

I am thankful to the authors I read and the wise people I spoke to who suggested chronicling my process of healing because now I have a way to look back on all that and maybe someday it will make more sense that it does today. Because it already makes more sense now than it did when I was living through it.

I am also beginning to forget what it felt like to be in love. The way it felt to love someone that wholly and completely and to know how deeply I was loved and desired in return. I am beginning to forget what it felt like to have a spouse. The comfort that comes from knowing there is someone so interested in you that he will answer any phone call or text you send. I am beginning to forget what it felt like to spend everyday with someone so that you end up with a shorthand for conversations. What it felt like to be with someone you can start mid-story with and he knows exactly what you are talking about. I am even beginning to forget the silly things like what it was like to have an automatic +1 to every social gathering and not walk in alone.

Sometimes there is a reminder and everything comes flooding back. I am out late with a friend and her husband texts to make sure she is ok. “Oh yeah, that’s right. Spouses check-in with each other.” I read a poem that captures the way that being in love felt for me. “How could I have forgotten that? It’s so all-encompassing.” And sometimes the painful memories come back too. I am still working on getting my maiden name back and when I have to pick up that ugly stack of papers called “Divorce Settlement”, my heart can start constricting and it can start feeling difficult to take a breath.

I wish I could decide which things I forget and which things remain close. But I guess maybe it is better for moving forward that it all becomes a little hazy and distant. One of the best pieces of advice I read about healing came from a Rumi poem:

Trust your wound to a teacher’s surgery.
Flies collect on a wound.
They cover it,
those flies of your self-protecting feelings,
your love for what you think is yours.

Let a Teacher wave away the flies
and put a plaster on the wound.
Don’t turn your head.
Keep looking
at the bandaged place.

That’s where
the Light enters you.
And don’t believe for a moment
that you’re healing yourself.

The poem feelsĀ like a challenge to hold my memories and the healing process loosely. To stand with open palms instead of closed fists and trust the surgery and the bandages to be effective. So I have tried and sometimes been more successful than others. But when I realize that maybe some of my happy memories are leaving my hands instead of just the pain, it can be tempting to close my fists (and heart) up tight again.

But I am not healing myself. I am trying to trust the Surgeon. And maybe part of healing is forgiving and forgetting – even the really lovely things.