“All healing is first a healing of the heart.” -Carl Townsend
I remember the first time I heard the maxim that “Bad things happen fast, and good things happen over time.” It was a recognition that hadn’t occurred to me until I was faced with sweeping and traumatic shifts in health and relationships. Illness, accidents, natural disasters and even broken hearts happen seemingly instantaneously. In retrospect, we can sometimes see the choices or events that lead up to them, but after the fact it usually doesn’t matter what was missed because now life has become a mission of healing.
Healing is the good that happens slowly over time. Helen Keller accurately described this when she said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Overcoming, strengthening and re-centering are the gifts in any crisis we face. It is the stuff of life that literally makes us what we are. Returning to our lives after a frightening diagnosis or a terrifying accident with the courage to heal is perhaps the single greatest force of love in life.
Last year on a Friday night in October, my son fell from a roof. It was the beginning of his long odyssey in healing. He is strong again now, a year later, but he is changed also. Healing is an acutely personal journey and one that, I venture to say, projects the trajectory of our future. The decisions we make when we face our losses and even our mortality, become the gateway for our heart. We all know people who get stuck at the crisis point- etching the memory into the story of their lives, repeating it for years, so that their life becomes that story. Their anger over diagnosis gone wrong or come too late, their inability to forgive the many messy accidents inherent in living, justify their unwillingness to begin the work of healing. True healing embraces that life will never be the same.
I contemplate often that special something that bestows resilience and the ability to heal in some people and yet seems to completely skip over others. Why do some soldiers, returning with lost limbs, come home grateful and eager to adapt to a new life while others remain shell-shocked and unable to connect for years? Even in my own family I witness the differences in my children’s abilities to move towards healing. This is at the heart of why real compassion is so difficult. It is easier to slip into pity and distance ourselves when the people we love refuse to heal.
My eldest son came home for thanksgiving sick again. He has been sick for some time, his immune system is compromised and while we don’t have any clear answers yet, this past week has brought us frighteningly close to a diagnosis that risks altering life for us all. We have all experienced the fear, denial and anger that are normal reactions to crises. During this same week, my daughter ended her two-year relationship. So our house is full again with all my kids at home again, each living with their private sufferings, working their way towards their own personal version of healing. Much as I would like to show them the way, and still slip into fighting with them every now and again about what they need to do, I too am learning that healing is the seed of love that lives inside of us. It is a start and stop process with no real road map outside of us. The only real direction that works is inward towards the heart. Like any good thing, it takes time.