What is it they say about healing? That it isn’t linear. That it’s messy and chaotic, and oftentimes we have to normalise living through it, not just getting through it. Afterall, according to Vivian Greene, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” OK, sure but when does the sun get here?
I had this romanticised notion about healing that once I’d dealt with my “stuff”, it would be done. As if one day I’d just tick it off my to do list. (This was only after I finally moved on from feeling like I might never heal from it.) It was a fairly definitive situation in my mind – I would either be over it or I wouldn’t. I’d either have moved on or still be living in the past. I’d either be healed or broken.
Broken, ugh. Who wants to be broken?
“Healed” felt like this destination that I had to get to and that if I wasn’t there then I was worth less and was less deserving of good things. For me, this tied back to the shame state I’d lived most of my life in. I was ashamed of having felt broken for so long, I was ashamed of having “baggage”, I was ashamed of feeling like I should have been stronger, strong enough to be fully healed.
What I never took into account was that I could be healing. That I could feel better but still have work to do. That it was an active state. Not a destination but a journey (if you will allow me to use one of my least favourite cliches, but my god it’s accurate). It wasn’t like I was either at the final destination or right at the start. I could be somewhere along that non-linear, undefined time continuum of a line.
When I accepted healing wasn’t a boolean quality, I realised it’s also true then that it’s not required for you to be “completely healed” in order to move forward in your life. For a while after my divorce I lived with the feeling that I couldn’t or shouldn’t start dating until I was at this nirvana state of “healed” – and let’s be honest if I was going to stick with that theory there’s a high chance I’d never have been ready to date again. I felt like it was selfish of me to involve someone else in my “mess” when I hadn’t fully sorted through it. But what I also hadn’t taken into account was that some healing would only be done when I let myself experience a relationship again. Who knew getting back into a relationship would be part of my therapy? And who was I to deny myself that?
In allowing myself to accept that healing, and growth, are in some ways always ongoing, I allowed myself to see that the darkness and the light in me didn’t somehow cancel each other out in the calculation of my worth – they simply added up to the sum of me. Albeit they also don’t define me.
I think a lot about Kintsugi. As well as being a Death Cab for Cutie album title (you can read in Lou Who? about a first date I went on to one of their shows), it is more originally known as the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. It’s built on the idea that by embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. And I f*cking love this concept because it’s also so true of humans!
We can be so much more full as people when we’ve been broken apart and are forced to put ourselves back together again. There is beauty, and value, and growth in that.
While we’re in the middle of our healing journey it is possible to see both our past and our present within ourselves. When we’re triggered, they say our first reaction is our past, our trauma response, and our second is our healed, rational, present response. When I was early in dating while healing after my divorce, I mostly presented with trauma responses to any trigger. Now, as I’ve spent more time rewiring my brain and unlearning certain misconceptions I had about the behaviour of others and the value of myself, I mostly witness healed, rational, present responses.
There are still times where a trauma response will pop up. But the speed with which I can identify that that’s what it is and move onto the healed response proves to me that healing is possible, being able to deal with things we never believed we would be able to is absolutely do-able.
It’s maybe not going to be a straight line to get there, and in some cases it might take a lot longer than you expect, but doing the work, accepting that there will be dark days but resolving to fill those cracks with gold will only make you into a more beautiful work of complex human art.