I have this dream pretty regularly. I am running from someone who intends to do me harm but can't get far enough away. I end up backing myself into a corner, in a dimly lit room with this beat up creaky old white door that doesn't lock. On the other side of that door, they push and push trying to get in and I can't hold the door closed. The intruder is powerful and strong while I am defenseless and weak. The door opens a little bit at a time and I'm screaming, using all of my force to attempt to close it but it's just not good enough. The door opens wide and then I awaken with a jolt.
Now I'm sure some dream analyst would have a lot to say about the dream but that's not really the point at all. The point is that no matter how many times I have this dream, I can't change the outcome. That door is coming open whether I want it to or not. That's kind of the way it works in the waking life too, isn't it? Change is right there, pushing at our door while we waste precious resources of time and energy fighting it, hiding out on the other side of the door attempting to hold it back. Still it spills in a little bit at a time until its invaded the whole room and there's no denying its presence anymore.
After I lost my two babies in pregnancy, things started to change. It's not that I was better or worse than who I was before; I was just different. As someone who had shunned emotions and tears as "weakness" for most of her years, I was taken aback at the flood of emotions that came pouring out with my tears. I couldn't stop it. I was able to see things in a different light, appreciate life that much more, and grow in my role as a mother.
When my youngest son was diagnosed with a birth defect of the skull and a brain lesion at fourteen months old, my life became unrecognizable. Surgeries, seizures, scans, tests, medications, therapies, and hospitalizations took over. Every last bit of who I was vanished watching him suffer. It broke me, a thousand times over. I became a keeper of his pain. I was a witness to his decline. I was a powerless bystander in his agony. I was a desperate onlooker hoping and praying for a miracle. I was all of those things, except for me. I had gotten lost in there somehow.
I had spent a lot of time looking for who I used to be to no avail. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't find her. I was so sure that if I just kept at it eventually I'd run into her; pun intended of course. Much to my dismay, she was gone without a trace. My endeavors were fruitless. She had blown away in the wind. Only I was left. There was no old me or new me; there was absolutely nothing. I had to start all over, rebuilding this person I only had a vague recollection of. I stood broken and full of despair for what no longer existed. I didn't know where to start and the world felt dark and shadowy beneath my feet.
What I didn't realize was that this was always the way it was going to be. I was never going to be able to be the same person again. We are not supposed to be. We are supposed to change. Grow. Leave little bits and pieces of ourselves in yesterday. With every heartbreak, success, failure, and joy, we change. It happens whether we want it to or not. It's hard to accept that we don't really have a say in the process, especially when the change takes you by complete surprise and leaves a gaping hole in your heart. We can deny it or we can accept it but either way, it is happening. To accept it doesn't mean you have to like it; it just means you don't settle in that in-between space trying to relive out all the different ways it could have or should have went. You can accept something that you really, truly hate. It will be hard. It will hurt. It will shake you to your core. It will feel like the entire world is caving in around you at times. It will be a long process, one step forward, two steps back, and then again until you gain some traction and start moving forward but you can do it.
Maybe that's an overly simplistic view of change. Maybe it's all way more complicated than accepting what has happened has really happened. Maybe I don't understand it at all. Or maybe I'm still too sleep deprived to tell if my words are coming out right. Either way, this is what I am going to do today. This is what I want you to do with me. Give up chasing the ashes of what wasn't. Give up clinging to the hope of what truly can't be. Extract yourself from the tangle of webs that have held you down and still for so very long. Stand tall and believe that you are capable and worthy of moving forward. Take that step. Just one. Just for now. Just for today. Take that step and know it will be okay. Maybe not right away, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but someday, it really can be okay.