Have you ever curled up in a pile of laundry because it seemed like a good place to cry?
Have you ever sobbed in front of a mirror because you were in so much pain and you just wanted to be seen, but the only person there to share your suffering was, well…yourself?
Have you ever hurt so deeply that you were certain your body would just stop functioning?
Have you ever cried until your eyes were swollen and your tears ran dry and your face looked like it was stung by a hive of killer bees?
Let the shower run hot to cold as your shoulders shook with the inner sobs that no longer carried any sound?
If so, you aren’t alone.
If not, well, this is awkward.
Here’s the thing.
This week I have come to realize that the depths of my biggest fears and the sting of my life’s deepest pains are little more than fossils of my life’s greatest beauty.
Hang with me here tonight, y’all, cause I’m going full on existential.
(I blame the cancer. Totally the cancer.)
Pain, you see, is the anchor of joy.
We can’t have one without the other. Pain and joy are two sides of the exact same coin.
Don’t believe me?
We are terrified of cancer because it makes us realize how fleeting and precious life is.
We fear for our children because we’ve never known love as deep as the love we harbor as parents.
We mourn a romantic break up because we remember how beautiful love was before that fracture ever happened.
We can’t possibly feel the sting of want without the experience of wanting not.
We can’t possibly know the valley of loss without once standing atop a mountain.
In short, there is no pain in this life that doesn’t point to something beautiful that once was.
Pain is a fossil of beautiful things.
It’s a footprint of something that left us.
And when we experience pain like this, we have two choices, friends:
We can let these ghosts haunt us or we can turn them into our teachers.
I have had one of the hardest weeks of my life. I’m scared to death of my mastectomy, and the scars it will leave me, physically and emotionally.
But I’m sick of letting this pain control me.
So tonight, I’m running my fingers along the outlines of my pain fossils. I’m studying the scars that cover my heart and I’m tracing the shapes of all the things I’ve lost (or am scared of losing).
That way I am reminded of all the beauty I’ve already had.
And instead of curling up in a pile of laundry, I’m sucking in my breath and saying
“This is terrifying and this is hard, but only because I am so damn blessed.”
This pain I’m experiencing? It points to something beautiful, and I will find that beauty again.
Why did I never appreciate my body when it was healthy? Why did I not relish my feminine shape before it was altered forever by a surgeon’s knife? Why did I feel so shy during intimacy, so embarrassed in a low cut bathing suit, so ashamed in a formal gown that made me look buxom?
Today I am aching with sadness over the changes my body will experience with after mastectomy. But as I trace my fingers over the fossils of this pain, I can guaran-damn-tee you one thing:
When I am healed, I will do better.
I will love my body with abandon and relish my health and allow myself to feel proud of what’s left of my womanly figure.
My pain is no longer holding me captive.
My pain is now my teacher.
Friends, when you find yourself in the darkest times, remember you only know darkness because you’ve known light.
When you are low, low, low in the valley, let that remind you that you’ve scaled some damn mountains in your time.
You’ll scale them again.
Tonight I want you to trace the outlines of your fossils. Run your fingers across the scars of your pain.
Then REMEMBER the beautiful things that once existed in each crevice, and remember that those are the things we have that are worth living for.
Let lost romance remind you that love is worth chasing.
Let your sick body remind you that health is worth celebrating.
Let your broken friendships remind you how deeply you can love and connect with another person.
When you find yourself curled up in the fetal position in a pile of dirty laundry (literally or figuratively, maybe I’m alone here), just remember that there is NO HURT IN YOUR LIFE that doesn’t point to something beautiful.
Find that beauty, remember it, and cling to it like a cat on a curtain.
Beauty is coming for us again, my friends.
Our hurts won’t last forever.
All we need is a little grace, a little time
And perhaps, a little pile of laundry to cry into.