It hurts, this journey. It hurts and then it eases and then, like a smack in the face it hurts again. I didn’t expect that. I thought it would be easier to process, move on and feel optimistic again. Get on with my joyful life.
As I get older and wiser, I’m learning that pain is inevitable. I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with that notion, that truth. I think as a younger woman I believed that it was optional. I believed that if I boxed clever, if I played smart and avoided conflict I could sail through life – slim, smiling and perfect. I held myself back from situations where I might get hurt. I avoided my feelings because they made me and those around me uncomfortable.
Without thinking, I put a smile on my face and got on with things…isn’t that what mature adults do?
Going through fertility treatment is challenging, beyond any tough path I have ever walked. I am impatient. I am a perfectionist. I want to schedule my grieving and get ready for the next round of IVF with an open heart and the right attitude. Surely if I sit and cry, drink wine and eat chocolate ice-cream for a weekend, I’ll be all cried out. Right? Wrong.
Sometimes the grief and sorrow comes in endless waves.
Last Sunday my husband John and I spent the evening in the company of Rob Bell (and about 100 other people) in Dublin. Rob is a writer, philosopher, mystic, pastor. His weekly podcasts have brought me more comfort and clarity than almost anything else in the last few years. He has shown me there are no answers or explanations for shitty, painful experiences. They are quite simply part of being human. At the end of the night, I bought one of his books and asked him a question that had been burning a hole in my heart…
“What do you do, if you’re in the middle of something that hurts like nothing you’ve ever felt before? What do you do with that hurt? What do you do when you desperately want to remain open and loving? How do you resist the urge to close down, to become bitter and angry?”
Rob’s answer? “Forget about trying to integrate the experience. Forget about accepting it or being philosophical. That will come later. Right now, be angry! Shake your fist at the sky! Write your story down, talk it through again & again & again…until there is no anger or hurt or pain left. You have to feel it and speak of it. You can’t rush it. You have to be in it, before you can even begin to move past it.”
Dammit. How inconvenient. I really didn’t want to hear that and yet, I know it to be true.
I don’t want to be a bitter, twisted old lady. I don’t want to end up lonely & alone, with 10 cats, 2 budgies and a hedgehog. (Gotta love the hedgehog though). I don’t want my relationships to break down because I can’t move past the loss and anger and hurt. There is no shortcut, this experience is too important to skip. I’m finally learning that feeling all of this uncomfortable, unsettling painful crap is part of the human experience. It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, it’s simply being human. All of this will become part of the beautiful, complicated, messy human I am 30 years from now and I’m learning to be ok with that.
Feeling the pain and refusing to escape it is the only way to stay alive and true and human. You can’t go around it, or over it. You have to go through it.
How do you do that though? How do you feel it, sit with it? What does that even mean?
For me, it means…
1/ Writing in my journal as often as I can. There is very little structure to those journal entries, I simply start writing and the words pour out. It’s cathartic. The process of putting pen to paper can move things that are otherwise stuck.
2/ Allowing myself to cry, forgiving myself for sleeping more, making space for conversation with the people I love.
3/ Sitting in silence every morning, paying attention to how I’m feeling and simply acknowledging that today, it hurts.
4/ Making a big batch of these brownies (decadent, but not evil) and a massive saucepan of healing chicken broth for incredible pots of soup. I use food to show myself love & kindness (as well as the odd tub of ice-cream)
5/ Spending time outside, paying attention to the bees, the birds, crashing waves…the smiles of children, their unfiltered laughter. They bring a smile to my face too…
Are you with me? Are you willing to step into the darkness and trust that you’re going to come out the other side?
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