All of us have been through some kind of wounding situation that put us on a healing path.
It might have been a badly sprained ankle, a deep cut that required lots of stitches, surgery of some sort, a heart attack, the death of a friend or loved one, a divorce, cancer, a lost friendship, a long-term illness. Any number of wounds can put us on a healing path.
We’ve all experienced some sort of wound that needs healing.
And if you’re like me, you want to heal pronto. Immediately. Or in a week or two, max.
I don’t want healing to stretch out over months or years and certainly not decades.
But that might actually be how long real healing takes.
I had a cancer journey that started about five years ago. My breast cancer diagnosis was on September 6th, 2011. That began a journey of eight months of treatments – chemo, surgery, more chemo, and finally radiation. I chose a more intensive timeline for my last chemo so that I’d finish treatment a month earlier. To me back then a month seemed like a long time.
And once I completed treatment (at the end of April, 2012) I expected a straight upward line of healing until I was well in a year. Max.
Well, I can tell you now that that expectation was totally unrealistic. And on some level, I knew it was.
But I was so ready for my “normal” to return.
It was much the same after each of my parents’ deaths. I expected that the pain would diminish in a straight uphill line. And in a year it would be over, and I’d be back to “normal.”
I was wrong both of those times, too.
So why does healing take SO LONG?
And why do we want it to be so much faster than it is?
I think it’s because we don’t like to feel vulnerable, to be in pain, to be uncertain, unsure.
We want to feel competent, strong, capable, able to handle the anything and everything that life throws at us.
And when we’ve been deeply wounded, we don’t feel quite up to that.
Wounds remind us of how fragile we humans are.
Wounds remind us that we’re not in charge.
Wounds remind us of past wounds that haven’t healed yet.
At this, my five-year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis, I’m wondering why I haven’t YET returned to my pre-cancer “normal.”
I still don’t have very good stamina. The seroma in my breast, that scarring at my surgery site, still hurts. Sometimes a LOT.
And I still feel a vulnerability that I didn’t feel pre-cancer.
I no longer have the illusion of invincibility, the illusion that I will be strong and healthy always, that I won’t get old and sick and eventually die.
And I know that I might not even make it to old and sick before I die!
So what does this all have to do with the taking so long to heal?
I think it’s that the healing process is a preparation. It’s an uncertain time that helps us remember that we are fragile human beings who don’t have forever here on this pretty blue planet.
It’s a fallow time when we can loosen our grips. When we can say “I can’t” and not feel guilty. When our bodies and our souls are telling us it’s okay to take care of ourselves. When our bodies and souls are actually encouraging us to do just that.
It’s a time to remind us of what we subconsciously know is important, to remind us of the things we can overlook when we’re well.
The things like spending time with our loved ones, of enjoying a sunset or pretty clouds or a raindrop on a leaf, of appreciating the flavors and textures and of our favorite foods, of making time for the things we have put off in the past.
Healing time is about more than physical or emotional healing.
It’s about learning to be who we really are.
So in a way, a wound is a gift.
One that we can really appreciate because it’s a gift that can change us, help us to grow.
And one that can complete us.
Yes, that’s a paradox.
In what we think is diminishment is actually a return to wholeness.
And we need lots of time to let go into diminishment, to allow the holes to become wholes.
We need lots of time to become complete in our incompleteness.
We need lots of time to become fully human, to let go of wanting “normal,” to live into our present – whatever it may be.
And a long healing journey gives us that opportunity.
I suppose I should take that opportunity. Each day. And quit worrying about when I’ll be completely healed.
But instead I’ll be glad for this opportunity for eventual wholeness. Through healing.