I had one of those moments the other day. You know the kind—the life changing kind. I don’t know if it ever happens to you or not, but moments like that are few and far between for me and so they stand out in my mind.
You would think an epiphany moment like this would happen somewhere serene and tranquil, perhaps during a long walk on a beautiful trail inside a nature preserve. C’mon, we all know the town over which I reign, and storybook events like that don’t happen in Crazy Town. Nope. My soul awakening moment happened right in the middle of Kroger. Yep, a grocery store.
There was nothing really extraordinary about this day, I honestly had just been there to pick up some fresh fruit and veggies, as my pursuit of a healthy, lifestyle begrudgingly continues. I was glancing around for some honey crisp apples and I saw an old friend looking at some fruit. For a second, I considered turning my cart and quickly going the other direction before he could see me. Instead, because I’m me, I opted to crash my cart smack dab into his.
Stunned, he looked up with shock on his face, anxious to see the maniac who just T-boned his cart. Immediately, his face turned into a huge smile, followed by a commanding, “Come here girl!” Instantly I was receiving the best, friendly bear-hug ever. Instantly, we began catching up on each other’s lives. This is a person who knew everything that had happened in my life—the self-destruction, the devastation, the betrayals, the complete collapse of my life and loss of everything I held dear. He knew I had suffered through many dark moments of despair and that my journey of healing, began about 18 months ago, and so he asked, “how are you doing?”
We talked vaguely about things that had happened, people who were involved, but mostly we discussed how I was feeling. At one point I said that I was no longer upset with any of the people I felt had betrayed me and that I was just moving forward with my life. This was a statement I must have said a hundred times over the course of the last two years. I said it to others and to myself all the time. I said it in therapy, I said it to Lori, but I never really meant it. I wanted to mean it. I, so desperately, wanted to mean it.
I think we all do that. When we are hurting we speak the way we hope to feel, the way we think we should feel, but not really the way we honestly feel. It’s very similar to when you break up with a man and then you see his friends and you smile and nicely say, “he’s a great guy, just not for me, I wish him well though.” But inside you’re really thinking, “yeah, that guy is a douche and a jackass-bastard, he will regret the day he discarded me like yesterday’s garbage!!” You don’t say it out loud, though, because luckily, you have that chip that filters those angry, inappropriate thoughts, even if only for a minute. You get on your phone the second you’re in your car, chip filter deactivated, and you call your BFF and say, “I just ran into that MFer’s no-good friends.”
But this time when I said it I was instantly overwhelmed with a very different feeling. I noticed it immediately, but I didn’t say anything to him. I finished our conversation and as I was walking out of the store I was still a little overcome by the newness of what I was feeling. It was something I couldn’t put my finger on exactly and an emotional feeling that is hard to express, but I knew something major was occurring inside of me. The entire time I was putting my groceries away my mind was racing with thoughts and questions, and I couldn’t calm the emotional catharsis taking place inside of my heart, mind, and soul. It was powerful, it was happening, and all I could do was experience it. That night as I was scrubbing my bathtub I was still processing what was happening and that’s when it hit me. Right there with the Clorox and scrub brush in my hand, I realized, I meant what I said. I wasn’t mad anymore. I wasn’t hurt anymore. I no longer had any feelings of any magnitude about any of it anymore. I had peace. You have to understand that when you have lived in chaos most of your life, the calm of peace can be quite unrecognizable and disturbing. Anger had always fueled me. Sorrow had smothered me. Denial was my very best friend. Peace, however, was something I had never known.
I had destroyed myself. I made mistakes, I was publicly and privately humiliated, and I allowed shame to engulf me. I went into therapy and admitted the deep, horrific childhood victimization I had endured for years, I told the secrets I had promised no one would ever pry from my soul, and I suffered. I suffered greatly. Usually healing gets harder before it gets better because it’s incredibly painful to rip open deeply hidden wounds, treat them, and allow them to begin to heal. But for the first time in almost two years, I knew my healing was happening.
I slowly sat down on the side of my tub and I prayed. I prayed to the one who had allowed my healing to begin and to progress. My hurts were so deep, I knew God himself lead me to the people and the places where my soul could be treated and start to become healthy and whole. Healing is a journey, it isn’t a destination. You don’t magically arrive at a finish line that says, “HEALED.” God had allowed me to destroy myself so that ultimately, He would save me. With tears streaming down my face, I thanked him. I thanked him for it all and I felt the weight of the world removed from my shoulders and I realized how deeply beautiful healing can be. It was profound, my anger, pain, and shame were finally passing out of my life.
In my darkest of moments, people would say to me, “this too shall pass.” It’s interesting to me that people only use that quote to assist them in difficult or painful times. There is not one definitive answer for the origin of this popular saying, some trace it back to Jewish folklore and King Solomon, others say it is an old Persian fable, but my favorite version is from a Turkish parable in which a traveling man visits a village after a long journey and asks if there is anyone who would feed him and allow him to stay in their home for the night. The villagers explain that they are all too poor but send him to the home of the richest farmer in the land. The farmer and his family welcome the man, treat him well and as he is leaving their home the next day, he thanks them for their generosity and tells them, “You should thank the creator for this wealth. Nothing stays as it is. This, too, shall pass.”
A few years go by and the man returns to the village. He learns that the rich farmer lost everything in a flood and now is a servant to another wealthy man. He visits him and the man, who remembers him, welcomes him into his meager home and shares what little food he has with him. The traveling man feels terrible for what has happened to this man who was so generous and kind to him and he tells him that he is upset that this terrible luck has befallen him. The poor man looks at him and smiles and says, “remember what you told me, this too shall pass.” A few more years go by and the traveling man again returns to the town. He finds the man who was so kind to him and he is again, incredibly wealthy, because the man he was serving died and left him everything because he was such a loyal servant to him.
As humans, it is our nature, to want our rough times to pass quickly, and we hope our good times will last indefinitely. But that’s not how the cycle of life works. I think in life we have relatively few high-highs, few low-lows, and our lives are mostly made up of all the in-betweens. During those seemingly hopeless, dark times, remember “this, too, shall pass.” But, when you are experiencing those happy, joy-filled times, don’t become complacent. Remember, “this, too, shall pass.”
My healing journey continues, but I can tell you I have learned that you need to squeeze every single minute of happiness out of life that you can. Love the people you love, tell them you love them, they are taken from us way too soon. Find the magic in life and if you can’t find it, create it. The most amazing things in life are usually located in the smallest of moments. Don’t overlook those.
Yes, life sends pain and it rains and you will endure many storms. You may think they will never end but keep walking your journey. Happiness exists right on the other side of suffering. There really is beauty everywhere, you may just need to adjust your view. It’s imperative to remember that ultimately, it’s up to you, you have to be the one to push the clouds away. Happiness is contagious and magnetic; the world is drawn to joy. Build your own little happy place. Embrace life, release shame and pain, and refuse to do anything except fight for something better. Life isn’t perfect and it isn’t easy, but you only get one, and it’s not a dress rehearsal–it’s all you have. I’ve decided to choose joy and I hope you will too.
Sloppy, raggedy-assed life. I love it.