Healing Hurts

Approximately seven weeks ago, while cleaning a school with my youngest son as part of a community service initiative, and as I returned mops outside to dry, I slipped on a surprising patch of spring ice and fractured my ankle.

A few hours later, I would discover that my right fibula was broken. I had never broken a bone before. I didn’t know how much it would hurt. I didn’t know that my leg and foot would throb so intensely that I would cry out in my sleep. I had birthed two children, endured the pain of labor and couldn’t imagine that any pain from a slip and fall could be any worse.

Thank goodness I listened to the doctor at the urgent care clinic and took the prescription for the pain medication, which finally enabled me to sleep.  Once I awakened, the first thing that came to mind was the question: how long it would be before I was better? Or said another way, how long was it going to hurt?

Isn’t that the question we all have when we are experiencing something painful and uncomfortable—the length of time we will have to endure it? How long will the healing take, I wondered. So, naturally, I took to the internet and what I learned about healing was not limited to the human body, but was also was applicable, I thought, to matters of the human spirit.

When you break a bone, the healing process begins immediately, evidenced by the inflammation that immediately follows an injury. Inflammation is the first step of the healing process, and is caused by bleeding into the area of injury and clotting of blood at site of the fracture, according to the website foothealthfacts.org.

I imagined that the throbbing I was feeling was, in fact, blood rushing to the area. The thing that was hurting me was also the very same thing that was healing me. The uncomfortable pain of the swelling was an indication of injury, but simultaneously, was evidence that the healing had begun.  Both of these realizations led to my second epiphany: healing hurts. A lot.

The website went on to explain that after inflammation comes bone restructuring and bone remodeling. The bone amazingly heals itself, but not without considerable effort and discomfort. The body creates new bone to repair the break. Creation and recreation is possible but painful, and amazingly the way you are supposed to facilitate this painful healing? To be still and Let. It. Hurt.

The super-sized boot the doctor prescribed served one purpose: to immobilize my foot, ankle and entire leg, really. For weeks, my ankle was kept still so that healing could happen. I couldn’t move it, twist it or turn it. Stillness is a requisite for proper healing. There was nothing I needed to do to heal my broken ankle. I couldn’t manipulate it or do anything to it to make the healing happen quicker. All I had to do was be still and wait.

As it was with my broken bone, so too, have I found it to be in the broken places in my life: when I reflect upon it, and although it may not feel like it, healing begins immediately. It starts to happen the moment we recognize that we are broken, that a relationship is broken, that a promise has been broken, that a dream has shattered. How many times have we heard that acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

But oh, does this recognition hurt. It is painful to face the truth of our mistakes, disappointments, and losses. It is difficult to embark on the difficult journey of self-reflection and analysis required for healing to occur. Healing hurts. But if we are still—answers, clarity, courage, boldness, and wholeness eventually comes. We just have to not move and wait.

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Categories: Uncategorized
May 31, 2016
skimbro

Keep Hope Alive

I was so happy to see Holly* at a 50th birthday party for a dear friend that I hadn’t realized we shared. I had not seen her since she took photos for me at the launch party for my first book. Over the years, Holly’s photographic work for me has served as a chronicle of sorts for my post-divorce transformation, documenting several key life events with her beautiful photos. Furthermore, just months after my separation, she took a series of body affirming, self-esteem building, portraits which really helped me visualize myself as beautiful, perhaps for the first time.   So seeing her after two years was most welcome.

As we chatted and caught up, I was surprised to hear her casually mention her husband. She was a newlywed and she was 51 years old. Married for the first time. She said to me, “I’m the poster child for ‘keep hope alive.’”.

I remember a conversation we had while pouring over the prints from my photo shoot. She was sharing resolutions or intentions for the New Year, it was more than five years ago. I distinctly remember one of her resolutions was to find someone to love who loved her in return. I remember recoiling at that intention, at the time, still healing from the wounds of a marriage ended.

More than five years later, her intention had manifested. Holly told me that she met her husband-to be while dining out, alone, at the bar of a local restaurant. He was dining solo as well and after an evening of furtive looks, as he was paying the bill, Holly said “Oh, you’re leaving already? I was just about to join you.” He invited her to do so and the rest, as they say, is history. Six months later, they were wed.

Keep. Hope. Alive.

She showed me the most beautiful wedding pictures, and looked me in the eyes and said,” I am telling all my girls—Don’t give up.” Surely she was a testament to staying positive, remaining hopeful and believing that it’s never too late.

I recognize that marriage is not something desired by everyone or objectively something to be longed for, but the principles Holly enacted, I believe can work for anyone for anything that a heart desires, especially if you have wanted it and waited for it for a long time.

    1. Stay Positive: Holly did not become embittered by her single state. She did not begrudge her friends who had married, or in some cases married, divorced, and remarried before her. She was the consistent voice of encouragement and support to those around her.
    2. Remain Open: Holly did not sit at home waiting to do the things she wanted to do. She went out, often alone. She was an active participant in social events. She pursued her interests. She was engaged in the environment around her, wherever she was.
    3. Take Action: Holly sat down the bar from her husband-to-be for almost an entire meal before she said something. She did not let the moment pass her by. She spoke up. She seized the moment. She took a chance. And it paid off.
    4. Keep. Hope. Alive: I believe that is the enduring message of my brief encounter with Holly. She never stopped believing that what she desired (in her case lasting love) could happen for her. Despite the odds, despite the statistics, despite the horror stories of others and bad experiences she endured, Holly kept hoping. She kept believing. Holly never gave up. Staying the course with hope was the lesson for me and the entire reason I went to that birthday party in the first place: to be reminded that no matter how elusive the thing you long for, no matter the time your dream has been deferred, and no matter how long it takes…if we stay positive, remain open, take action and keep hope alive—eventually, it will come to pass.

*Names have been changed

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Categories: Uncategorized
Oct 11, 2015
skimbro

Divorce and Dishes

While unpacking my kitchen during my second post-divorce move in as many years—from an in-town high rise apartment to a smaller suburban one—as I unveiled dish after delicate dish from the beige-gray wrapping paper, I suddenly and surprisingly began to cry. At first I wasn’t sure why the tears were falling. I was moving to someplace I truly wanted to live for the first time in a very long time. I was leaving an urban environment that for me had become oppressive and sensorialy assaultive. Sure, the place was smaller, but it was mine. So, what was the reason behind the waterworks?

I kept working, lots of unpacking to do, but the tears kept coming and instead of contemplating the why, I tried to remain present in the moment, and focus on each and every plate and cup and glass that I held in my hand. I carefully unwrapped each one and gently placed the respective item in the empty clean white cabinet. Box after box I unloaded until it hit me.

The dishes that I was unwrapping, the kitchen that I carried with me on this second, post-divorce move in as many years was the kitchen of a decidedly single woman. It was not the kitchen of a woman with a husband and a family, at least not in the traditional sense. You see, gone were the multitude of casserole dishes for potluck parties. No more was there room for the silver chafing dishes suited for holiday dinners. My smaller environs left no room for the dining room sideboard where my grandmother’s dishes were stored and the three kitchen drawers meant no place for her silver either.

Just as well, though because holiday dinners were no longer hosted at my house, in fact I fly solo on every other Thanksgiving these days. And the neighborhood in which my ex-husband and I raised our two boys was left far behind and with it the impromptu gatherings and stop-on-over get togethers. I rarely prepare and port food to other places anymore. The kitchen is barely big enough to prepare meals for my boys and me, anyway, much less anyone else.

Now I have only the basic stuff, the essential kitchen items absolutely necessary to provide regular sustenance for the three of us. With my grandmother’s china safely with my mother in Ohio, I continued to reflect on my intentionally down-sized hearth as I unwrapped my exactly four wine glasses and precisely two martini glasses (no more formal service for 8), the tears drying up now, when I admitted to myself, for the first time, that I actually liked having less. It was nice to have just enough things and space to know where everything was housed and not enough extra infrequently used items where things got misplaced or forgotten. I never had to look for an extra this or that because I didn’t have extra anythings. I didn’t have to keep things polished or shined because my silverware didn’t tarnish from nonuse, I used everything I had these days.

While the holidays could be lonely, if I wasn’t invited to this gathering or that get together anymore and if I never hosted another family holiday, it would be absolutely okay because my kitchen and my dishes fit the life I have now—the one I was creating and designing for myself and my two sons.

When I finished unpacking, and stood back and admired the now-empty boxes scattered about the floor, I noticed that while much smaller than the expansive kitchen of my marital home, my tiny suburban kitchen still had room for the most important items a home should have: lots of love and laughter and joy. I realized that I really didn’t miss the things I threw or gave away but I did treasure more and more the things I kept and in this new place, in my new life, those things fit just fine.

 

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Categories: Uncategorized
Sep 22, 2015
skimbro

When Things Fall into Place, Let Them

It seems natural enough—letting good things happen, allowing the meant to be to “be”—but sometimes during long periods of disappointment or distress, when things have been wrong for so long, we can develop an intimacy with suffering, a familiarity with pain and victimization such that we subconsciously recoil when things actually, for once, start to go right. It seems strange, I know, that when a circumstance we have wanted to change, actually changes and we aren’t overcome with joy, but often we find ourselves anxious, panic-stricken and unable to act when our blessing finally comes. It is a sad reality, but sometimes we are so accustomed to tasting the bitter that we cannot recognize the sweet.

It reminds me of when I finally lost the 25 pounds of baby weight that lingered many years after my younger son was born. Although the extra pounds were gone, I still felt and dressed like the heavier person I once was. I couldn’t perceive the thinner self I had become, my eyes still saw the heavier me. A change had come, but I had time a hard time accepting it. My hard work had paid off, but I was still so busy trying to achieve what I had already obtained that I could not embrace my new reality. We can become so invested in the struggle, so self-identified as a victim that when the hard times are over, we don’t even realize it, or even worse, we reject it out of hand.

Why would we ever want to stay in the darkness of the caterpillar’s cocoon when wings have sprouted that can carry us into the light? Although the cocoon is dark, it is warm and predictable, and although uncomfortable, it is safe, if for no other reason, than because it is known. So can it be when good things start to happen after long periods of turmoil. Our discomfort can become so familiar, so comfortable that we reject, ignore or fail to recognize when the thing that has ailed us for so long is being replaced by all the good things we hoped for.

How, then can we move from our fear and comfort with discomfort in order to receive that which we have longed for when it finally comes?

It is actually quite simple: we let go. How can we do this? It starts by believing that different can be better instead of worse. We must be mindful that when the winds are shifting in our direction we do not cling to the shore of our painful past, but we carefully and cautiously release our hurtful yesterday and let things fall exactly where they should–into place.

 

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Categories: Uncategorized
May 29, 2015
skimbro

One Small Token of Self-Love

“What would happen if you gave yourself a small token of self-love each day?”

A dear friend asked me this question during the course of a recent conversation in which I was discussing my need to step-up my self-care regime. I paused, not knowing how to respond because it sounded a teeny bit selfish, and entirely extravagant at first blush.

Then my friend expounded.

It didn’t require actually purchasing anything, in fact, it would be better, he suggested, if I did something that cost absolutely nothing. Like taking a long walk, or letting the dishes or laundry, or whatever other chore that was looming wait 15 minutes while I lit a candle and breathed in its fragrance. Perhaps I could pause for a moment to appreciate the beauty of a sunset or the colors in the turning autumn leaves. Small things all, but the idea was to pick one thing, each day, and “give” this thing as a token of love to myself.

Even as I started to warm to the idea, I doubted whether I could even think of that many different “gifts.” I, like many other women who are mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends, tend to spend a lot of time giving to others. How would it change my life, I wondered, if I started giving to myself?

“Can I repeat?” I asked half-jokingly. The question made my friend chuckle and I was assured that the point was not in the variety of the gifts, but in the consistency of the giving. Relieved from the pressure of thinking up 365 different tokens of self-love, I set about starting this practice.

I recorded the gifts in my calendar: “30 minutes of extra sleep” or “made dinner for myself and sat down to eat it” or “long hot bath.” It started being fun to see what I could think of next and I noticed myself actually looking forward to the next day’s “gift.”

It didn’t take long before I started to notice what I suspect my friend already knew to be true, that even small things, when done consistently and with intention, can collectively become something much bigger.

I started being more aware of what actually brought me joy. I found myself more grateful for the little things that made me smile. It became clear that my intention held the power to create my own happiness, regardless of my circumstances. Perhaps most importantly, I began to feel more loving towards myself—and that has been a gift that has not stopped giving.

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Categories: Uncategorized
Oct 19, 2013
skimbro
Pages:12»

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