What Doesn’t Kill You…

The week leading up to Thanksgiving was difficult. The memories of the previous year haunted me and I found myself dwelling on the way my relationship went down (as well as the various stages of “whatever” it’s been in since then). I commented to someone close to me that the evening my relationship ended last November was among the top 10 most emotionally traumatic experiences of my life.

But since then I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. While the time period after that breakup was definitely what I would term a “dark night of the soul” and led me to a lot of confusion and pain I had to work my way through (truthfully I think I’m still doing it on some level), I would have to revise my statement. I’m 38 and I’ve had quite a few emotionally traumatic things happen in my lifetime so far. The pain of that experience would probably make my top 20, but definitely not my top 10.

I’m pretty sure the last year of my marriage and the one that followed its end would use up at least 5 of my top spots. A dark secret from my husband’s past being brought to light, with all the incurring consequences, would make the top 10. Falling into a deep pit of suicidal depression at the very end of my marriage and having my husband yell from the edge (as he backed away quickly): “See ya! Even though I’m abandoning you and won’t check back to see if you make it out, it was real!” Yeah…that wasn’t fun. My oldest child going into the hospital at 6 weeks and having them perform 5 failed spinal taps on her to locate the root of the illness was pretty traumatic. My youngest child being diagnosed with a serious, life-long disease that will have to be managed daily; that definitely tops the breakup from last year. There are things that have happened to me that I won’t recount here, but they are immensely higher on the immediate trauma scale than one man deciding he wouldn’t proceed with our relationship. Losing my faith wasn’t an abrupt trauma, but the leaving behind of nearly everything I’d ever known, along with an identity I’d had since I was a child, was definitely heart-wrenching and emotionally difficult.

In some ways, it was reassuring to realize that this thing in my life I’ve given power to in the past year, this event and man who hurt me so profoundly…well, I’ve faced much worse. Many times over. You know what? I’m still here. I survived all of it. That dark pit my husband left me in? It took me about a year or two to reach the top and sometimes my hands would slip and I’d fall back down a bit, but I finally reached the light and I feel its warmth on my face more often than not. The things that have happened with my children? They have passed or are manageable. My kids are still beautiful, vibrant and most importantly, alive on this beautiful planet with me. Unlike parents who’ve lost children, which is nearly impossible to consider, I still get to hold mine daily. Acts that have been committed against me; I made it through. The sheer act of not only surviving, but not letting it cripple me as a person, is a triumph no person or act can take away from me. Men who have lied, used, hurt or abandoned me all taught me something about myself and about what I do and DO NOT want.

Henry Rollins said: “Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength; move on.”

I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. I’ve faced pain and suffered, but I haven’t allowed it to break me. I’m still getting up every single day, trying to do what’s right by myself and others. I meet my responsibilities, not just adequately (well, unless we’re talking about my housekeeping skills!), but admirably. I’m not closed off or selfish. I’m willing to help others and be open. Most importantly, I’m trying so, so hard to evolve as a person. Work on forgiveness. Work on being a spiritual person. Focus on where I want to go, rather than where I’ve been. I’m about as far from broken as you can get.

Unfortunately, when my marriage ended and I wasn’t able to consider the last 14 years of my life a blip and bounce to the next stage, I considered it a weakness in comparison to how quickly he moved on  (as did he). When my relationship last year ended and it affected me on such an intense level, I heard from so many people “Just forget him. He doesn’t deserve you and you’ll find better.” There have been a lot of people throughout my life who have not been able to comprehend or have empathy for the depth of my feelings. I have a theory, which I’ll expand on more in a future blog…

Of course I have emotional scars; I have experienced pain and it’s left its mark. But I have worked that scar tissue over and made it my bitch. I have rubbed it and oiled it and done my best to keep it malleable. Scar tissue doesn’t have the ability to experience sensation to the same extent as regular tissue. I think some people get hurt and just let the scars build, without ever trying to really do anything about it. They tell themselves they’ve healed, they’re tougher. They won’t ever let themselves get hurt like THAT again! Scar tissue IS stronger, but at what cost? If your ability to feel is diminished, is it worth it? Sure, maybe you won’t experience pain to the same extent, but that just means you’re not experiencing your emotions fully. In order to open yourself to love, to wonder, you have to be willing to open yourself to the possibility of pain.

The saying is that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Perhaps part of my strength is also not letting it diminish my ability to feel: To love and let myself be loved, to feel the pain of loss, to always be willing to take the risk. I’m working on choosing my risks more wisely, but I never want to be too afraid to try. I never want to be so guarded from past pain that I can’t see love in front of me, or have compassion for the suffering of others.

To sum it up, I recently read this and it resonated with me. I think this is where I keep finding myself. Others may view it as weakness or being a “glutton for punishment”, but I don’t think so. I think being willing to be open is simply a strength most people don’t recognize…

“The best advice I ever heard for a broken heart is to leave it broken, not try to fix it.  Leave your heart just as it is: broken open, pure, vulnerable, sad, tender, soft, touchable, alive and awake. There is pain in being open, but it’s an honest pain.  There’s pleasure, too – heartfelt, real, present, singing at the top of your lungs, dancing in the middle of the night, smiling a secret smile, because life is unpredictable and love is everywhere if you open your eyes and look.”

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One Response to “What Doesn’t Kill You…”

  1. Sounds like you are getting closer to figuring it out. There is pain in your writing, but there is healing too. I really do believe what we don’t learn from the first time, we have to re-learn over and over again until our “scar tissue” is strong enough to face it head on. Which is what you seem to be approaching, a sense of how strong you really are.

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