Books have always provided me with a form of therapy. I find comfort in books, especially when there seem to be more downs than ups of life. When I was 16 and my boyfriend broke up with me, I carried Eat Pray Love around with me like an extra limb. The pages crinkled under my hands and the cover art slowly began to separate from the actual story. At 19, when faced with an academic choice, deciding if I was indeed smart enough to study medicine, I read Cutting for Stone, taking minutes to collect myself after finishing the last page. And after making it through my first six months with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Cheryl Strayed's Wild was my nearest and dearest ally.
A number of magnificent quotes come from these pages but the one that stuck with me was from another of Strayed's books, Tiny Beautiful Things. In it she writes, "Forgiveness isn't the pretty boy in the bar, it's the fat old guy you have to lug up the mountain".
Now, after reading that I could not get the line out of my head. The phrase kept coming back to me, not in terms of forgiveness but healing. So often we romanticize healing and pain and heartbreak and that glorious voyage we make from hurt to helped, from broken to fixed. It's easy to so because often times we come out of these experiences better, wiser and more emotionally resilient people. But in the middle of that crumbling, the collapse, the heart palpitations, twisted stomach, tense back and tunnel vision about how the world is quite literally ending and if it's not ending it needs to because life isn't supposed to hurt this much - the last thing I ever want to think about is the romantic notion of healing. F the healing and the wisdom and the life experience and make life normal.
In our world today, we are constantly exerting control - over our emotions, over each other, our diets, science, and the natural environment. Yet despite this control and the hurricane shutters and umbrellas and storm proof windows, if a Category 5 comes rampaging over the home, chances are it will crumble. There is little to be done during this storm but wait until the roof is off, glass is shattered, and we are sitting in the middle of the room drenched. Only after that, after the disaster, can we begin to slowly rebuild, drying our hair, sweeping up glass, all of the little things first.
This is healing. The picking up of the pieces that have somehow dissolved right in front of your eyes. It's the disbelief that these shards were once a reflection into that beautiful garden. Or the vulnerability of exposure to the elements, without a roof to separate you and the sky. But just as you do not get to choose you hurt, you do not get to choose how you heal. You may take steps that you believe will heal you but whether they do or not, only life will make that decision.
It is not my intention to be dismissive of manifest destiny or the idea that humans are indeed the masters of their own fate. Rather, this is meant to be a critique on control and the choices we make based on control. It has gotten to the point where we control to a fault and our "choices" of healing are not entirely healing at all. Stressed at work? Cigarette. Long day of school? Glass of wine. Or two. Or a bottle? Boy you're talking to but not really, but kind of, doesn't message you for a week? Time to find a new one. I am guilty of all of these things, sometimes in excess. And they all work, but only to a point.
Our choice of healing is not healing at all. Instead, we numb ourselves to the necessity of healing because it's a long, complex process that we cannot exert control over. Healing is sitting with the pain, in that messy convolution of life, refusing to budge from the hurt and instead owning it. We need to own our hurt to heal.