It’s been nice getting to know you. I thought I knew you before, but I was only acquainted with your surface. Now, as I’ve come to know your deep and dark recesses, you’ve also shown me the heights of your beauty and grandeur. My senses are more acute, my insights more broad. Sunsets are more vibrant and foods taste more delicious. Spending time with my children and my family feeds my soul once again. I feel and see and hear so much more than I used to. I live, now. I don’t merely survive.
The other day, I sat on the back porch of my friend’s home waiting for him to finish a project. He has a wall of boulders in his backyard and I felt like climbing them, so I did. This week is Homecoming week at my school and each day is a different dress-up day. I felt like dressing up in crazy outfits along with the students, so I did. At a restaurant the other night there was a table full of teenage girls wearing animal costumes next to us. I felt like making friends with them and finding out their story, so I did. (They were in town for a tennis tournament and going out to eat dressed up all crazy is a tradition for them.) “Sometimes, life likes me,” I texted my friend the other day. Sometimes, I like life back. In fact, most of the time, I love life back. I’m so glad I do.
Because of what I’ve been through, I have a much deeper appreciation for opportunities in life and grasping all it has to offer. If I feel like doing something, I do it. It makes no sense to hold back from healthy things like climbing rocks and making friends. I now become excited about new and interesting situations, even and especially the anxiety-inducing ones. I relish the opportunity to overcome fear.
And I love people. I sense the energy of people I encounter, and I feel their level of need or healthiness. I recognize the energy we create together and am able to maintain my boundaries. And it doesn’t have to hurt.
I am reveling in this space I currently occupy. It’s called healing, and it’s magnificent. I feel solid. I feel centered. I feel not overwhelmed with all the things. The other day, I graded an entire class period’s worth of papers in one sitting! It’s been years since I’ve been able to do that. Those small but big things show me how I can do this life.
I also no longer feel empty. Loneliness still comes and goes, but the black swirling void that used to spin me rarely ever rears its head anymore. I can’t honestly say that I feel like it will never come back, because it might. I hesitate to say that the hardest part is over, because life will continue to test and try me in unexpected as well as expected ways, and I am no longer naive with my hope. But I have so much hope, now. So much happiness and peace. Things are finding balance.
This has not just happened on its own. Yes, time helps heal, and putting distance between oneself and the trauma will inevitably allow the person to begin feeling safe once more, but I have also worked very, very hard. So much prayer, study, and meditation. So much therapy, talking, and writing. So much determination to never give up. Over and over and over and over. All those things and more. Fumbling and falling and failing and rising and fumbling and falling and failing again. All these things taught me, built me, molded me, refined me. And they will continue to do so.
I do not always maintain this perspective and am not always perfect at following through. I am human. Sometimes, the cruelty of the world and the pain that accompanies it is too big, and I forget to appreciate its beauty. Sometimes I allow people past appropriate boundaries, and I have to readjust and it hurts a little bit.
But most of the time, I can remember feeling is better than the alternative.
And almost always, I am not afraid.