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.