Why Don’t Things Stay Where You Left Them?
Have you noticed things don’t seem to stay where you left them? Every woman over 50 knows what I’m talking about. Looking in the mirror, my hands find a spot by my earlobes and I apply pressure upwards. That’s better. A little more reminiscent of the face I once knew. A decade of struggle magically fades. The methodical etchings of worry floats away.
Until I let go. As I slowly release the pressure, the downward drag begins again. Every cell in my body is being sucked, nanometer by nanometer, toward the grave. Why can’t things just stay where they once were?
Everything seems a bit lower these days. Our earnings, as a pandemic sweeps our nation. The price of gas calling us to fill up our tanks so we can sit in a parking lot with nowhere to go. The stock market is sinking swiftly. Our energy has come crashing down. Naps are no long luxuries but necessities. The aspiration of cleaning out the junk drawer is forgotten as we hit the play button one more time. Our motivation is at an all time low. So many things to do, so little energy to do them. Time on our hands.
Time enough to become aware that parts of our body are no longer where they were before.
Of Scars and Bruises
At 18, I had my appendix removed. A searing pain drove me to a scalpel wielding surgeon. The doctor cut a hole eclipsing most women’s caesarean scars. The average appendix is 4” long. The average baby is around 20”. The incision math didn’t add up. I did not know the scar was larger than normal as I was yet to reach the age where our conversations revolve around our body’s pains and ailments.
That is, I didn’t know until I made an off hand comment to the surgeon.
What I did know immediately is that I’d touched a nerve in this other human. My offhand comment about the length of the incision was an attempt at connection. This one line snaking across my abdomen was the only thing he and I had in common. This one cut mark told a story that I had a pain that needed healing and he, with deft scalpel and stitching skill, had brought the relief. This is not the usual grounds on which friendships are forged.
My benign comment was met with an instant wall of defence. “I don’t like to work through a key hole!” He snapped, narrowing his eyes, challenging me to say more. I felt like I’d thrown down the proverbial gauntlet to start a duel and he was ready to take up the challenge. The problem was, like most of my wayward mitts, it hadn’t been a throw down in an attempt to engage an opponent. It had simply dropped out of my hand. My teenage brain had no reference point that appendix scars weren’t supposed to be bigger than caesarean scars.
At that moment though, from my hospital bed, I instantly knew some deep truths about him. His comment revealed far more about him than his penchant to be excessive in how he cut into things. The decades peeled back and I could tell that for the briefest of seconds, I was no longer facing a learned and competent surgeon. The man before me was a boy, challenged and criticized, by some ghosts in the past. In the pinch of his face and the tension driving his shoulders up, I witnessed the after effects of critical words. I had unknowingly bumped into a gash of his own
He was ready to defend his skill. Daring me to utter one more word. I smiled an awkward smile and let my raised eyebrows put an end the conversation. An awkward awareness filled the room between us. He knew I’d seen his wound, and despite the fact he was a healer, his own was poorly sown up and oozing infection.
I had a scar, but it was evident that surgeon had a open wound. Mine was on my skin. His was on his ego. Mine was the result of his ability to heal. His, a sign of healing, not yet complete.
Within a decade, my scar would be swallowed by an even more impressive gargantuan scar. Flesh incised to give access to muscles that were torn apart from stem to stern. A trail marker left by babies voyaging through my body.
Our bodies carry our stories.
Every scar speaks of pain and healing.
Every facial crease of worry and laughter.
Every sagging jowl of the cells steady march toward the grave.
If you live, you will carry scars and not a few bumps and bruises.
Bruises marking our bodies tell of minor everyday mishaps. We bump our knees on the corners of coffee tables. Bang our heads on cupboard doors left open. Bounce our shoulders off corners of walls that are strangely closer than expected. A bruise announces our mishaps. Spreading blue and dissolving into shades of green and yellow. It flags a part of our body where our systems need to concentrate healing energy. The bruise stands a marker of a place that needs our increased vigilance for a few days until the healing occurs.
Wounds and bruises are meant to heal. The ones inside and ones outside.
Of Hope and Healing
On the outside of our body we can trace the healing process as the bruise goes from red to blue to green to yellow to gone.
On the inside, our bruises seem to take much longer to heal and the proof of healing is far less evident.
Life happens. Things sink lower than we ever imagined possible.
It seems every religion, in some form, employs the disciplines of silence, solitude and stillness. Spending time away from a chaotic, noisy world, we instinctively know is good for us. Whether it’s a cozy corner with a fuzzy blanket or a hidden retreat in the woods, our souls know we need to pull back in order to recharge. In the words of Ann Lamont, (?) “Everything works better once unplugged for a while.” Even you.
Silence, solitude and stillness are called disciplines because the wise among us have discovered, over the centuries, that they work something good in our lives. They are ancient practices that are far from our modern day reality.
Until COVID-19 happened.
Many of us have been thrust into varying degrees of silence, solitude and stillness. We never chose this discipline, but the work of this trifecta is becoming evident in our lives. The closets of our past are popping open and hurling things on the floor of our minds that we had almost forgotten about.
Have you ever crawled into a tub and while there discovered bruises you didn’t know you had. The tub, a place where we slow down and have time to notice. Where did that mark come from? How long has it been there?
As you are marinating in the tub of life, what bruises from your life are becoming evident to you? Get curious about the “bruises” you are noticing rising to the surface in your everyday life.
In the last few weeks I have had clients, in moments of motivation, stumble across things in their attic that have plunged them into grief. Others have life regrets exploding in their minds like popcorn. Others are confronted with a nasty side of themselves as they look at the same people over and over and can’t escape. Still others are looking forward with dread to returning to job they hate. I, myself, have been surprised by the amount of tears that have risen over things I thought I’d dealt with. Bruises not yet healed. Wounds, that need time and space to mend.
Unfinished business, like bruises, rise to the surface when there is time and space for the healing to take place. They can stay pushed down for years as we rush around to establish our careers, raise our babies or turn our house into a home. But what gets pushed down eventually floats to the surface in moments of stillness.
Life etches scars and bruises on the surface of our heart that need time and space to heal. Time and space, many of us have now.
What has been rising for you in these last weeks?
Have you become aware of regrets?
Is the grief of lost relationships and people creeping in on your days?
What is actually derailing your plans?
Is it simply a lack of motivation or a bruise that is now demanding to be healed?
Quote about the time for healing.
If you’ve set out to do a project, like clean out a closet or the science experiments in the fridge, but then find yourself frozen in front of the tv or the pantry, take a moment to do an inventory. What is really standing in my way? Is it a fear over something? Is it a recurring thought? What are the bruises and scars that you are now noticing that need a bit of focussed time and attention to heal? Get curious about them. How long have they been there? How did they get there? What does it say to you? What messages do they say about you?
Sink or Float
In life, things don’t stay where you left them. Hurts and internal scars that are pushed down slowly make their way to the surface. In fact, the harder you try to push things down, the more force they have when they rise like a beach ball pushed under the water’s surface.
As gravity pulls our skin downward, that which has been buried inside seems to rise to the surface. In families, secrets that have been hidden for decades get uncovered. Business that was left unfinished has a way of spilling out of the closet.
Take a moment. Take a look. For a moment stop fighting the silence, the stillness and solitude and press into it. What can you now move through and deal with that previously you were unaware of or unwilling to deal with? Don’t be scared. You’re older and stronger and a good measure wiser. I firmly believe that the things tumble back into our minds and memories because you now have the time and ability to help them heal and move through them.
It’s an odd thing that the goals we have for quarantine, like to clean out a closet can be trumped by a need to clean out an internal space that is crowding out some of the joy in your days. That’s right. When the past doesn’t stay in the past, taking some time to clean it up will expand the happiness quotient in the days to come. You will experience a lighter self. Your creativity may return. Who knows, you may find the energy to tackle the project that it wasn’t allowing you to get to.
When we stop using our energy to mask and bandage, our creative force is renewed. When you are willing to sit in the pain for a moment, the next moment often opens up to joy. The world is full of joy giving moments that we can miss when our energies are given to protecting our bumps and burnishes.
What in your life is refusing to stay where you left them?
What unfinished healing has silence, solitude and stillness brought to the surface?
Have the closets of your mind, revealed some things that need some going through?
Trish White is a counsellor who tries to spend more time healing wounded hearts than she does fighting the gravitational pull on her face.