The Things That Break Us

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When you’re in pain, you can’t see a way out of it, can’t envision a future when the weight isn’t pressing down on you, crushing you, sucking the air out of your lungs. In that moment, it can be hard to imagine that the hurt you feel will ever hurt less.

A week ago, my thigh was an angry purple bruise. The very real one hundred and twenty five pound metal weight that had pressed into my skin had left it sore and ugly. I marveled over it in the shower, ran my fingers over it every time I changed my clothes, showed it to friends who shared my disbelief that such a quick incident could leave such an intense mark on me.

We never know what will mark us, what will leave us sore and bruised, which things will pass without notice and which things will leave us reeling for weeks, months, years. We are masters at pretending and protecting. We excel at thinking the things that break others will surely not break us.

And then, inexplicably, something comes along that brings us to our knees. A person, an event, a loss, a truth we weren’t prepared to hear. One minute we’re coasting through our days and the next minute we’re counting our breaths and wrestling with the unimaginable, doing whatever we can just to stay standing.

I won’t try to talk you out of that feeling, would never try to tell a drowning person to just relax and wait for help to arrive. When you’re in it, you’re in it, and there’s something to be said for allowing yourself the space to feel whatever you need to feel, as intensely as you need to feel it.  Be sad. Be angry. Be jealous, frustrated, confused, disappointed. Let it soak in, let it settle, feel the weight of it. Because you can’t expect to ever heal from something until you’ve allowed yourself to feel it in your bones.

If you love yourself enough to put in the work, someday, somehow, you will come up for air. You’ll laugh at something that tickles you, have a conversation without feeling distracted by the big, ugly thing, enjoy a quiet moment without heavy thoughts creeping in. The thing that was blocking out the sun will slowly become a shadow at the edge of your vision.

My bruise has faded. It isn’t tender to the touch anymore. And I can’t help but notice that it’s taken on the rough shape of a heart. The thing that once hurt me now looks like the thing that keeps me alive. The things that break us allow us to heal and grow in ways that shape us for the better.

That’s the choice we have to make over and over again. When things are hard, when life hurts, when moments threaten to crumble everything we’ve worked so hard to build, will we lean into it, or will we try to ignore it, bury it, wish it away? Our brains tell us to avoid things that hurt. Our hearts, if we listen, will tell us something very different. Our hearts will remind us that if we can make space for the uncomfortable and impossible moments, we’re creating space for the unbelievable and lovely days that lie ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We The People

I was too nervous to watch the election coverage last night. I turned my phone to silent, put on my coziest pajamas, and went to sleep. I woke once or twice, and fought the urge to check on the progress. What would be would be, and I somehow felt that my faith in the good, paired with my refusal to look at results would protect us all. I was so wrong.

I wept this morning when I saw what had happened while I slept. Sobbed, actually, unable to make sense of what I was seeing. Today is my youngest child’s 3rd birthday, and I am terrified of the country he will wake up to.

But that’s the trick, isn’t it?  To not see this as a reflection on our country, on the people we will walk past and talk with today? The trick is to see this as the delusion of the group who was somehow able to turn out in larger, louder numbers. To remember that the most publicized voices are rarely the ones we should be listening to.

We are a good people, we are a loving people. Look at the ways our country has changed and grown in the past few years. Look at the people in our lives – friends, coworkers, family members – who now have rights and protections they were denied for so long. I have to believe in my heart that the love and courage of the many can still drown out the hatred and fear of the few. And I have to believe in my heart that this is still the truth: there are more of us than there are of them. We are stronger. We love harder. Our faith in the good cannot be shaken even in the face of darkest evil

I’m thinking this morning of all the photos I’ve seen in my life of dangerous places, war torn nations, ghettos where children still played in the streets, friends still sat with heads tipped together and spoke of big, impossible dreams. We have been fortunate in recent history to live in a country where our leaders, for the most part, tried to keep us together and safe and happy. There are countless people in countless places who have never felt those things, but who work towards happiness anyway.

That is what I have to do, what we all have to do in this terrifying time. Work towards happiness anyway. Love one another anyway. Fight for what is good and right anyway. The test of a person, a family, a people is not what we do when the road is smoothly paved for us, but what we do when everything around us has crumbled. We show our true colors and make whatever God we believe in so very proud when, in moments like this, we stand together and refuse to let fear destroy us.

Please, do not let fear destroy you today. Cry your tears, wrap up your tender little hearts, and go out into this beautiful world. Smile at strangers. Over-tip the person who makes your coffee. Call your mom or your dad or your sister or your friend from second grade and tell them how very very very much you adore them. Hold the door for the person behind you, even if you think they might be one of them.  Especially if you think they might be one of them. Because that’s what he wants, isn’t it? To scare us, to divide us, to build a freaking wall between us. No. Not today, not in my life, not in my country. I will not let the hatred of some dampen the love of many. I will not let fear crush my sense of community with every single person around me.

Today is not about that one man. He is not us and we are not him. Today is about you and me and all of us, rising together to show the world what we are truly made of. We are made of love. We are made of courage. We are made of strength. And nothing can tear that away from us.