Can I be transparent for a moment? These last two years have felt like I got hit by a freight train while walking barefoot on broken glass, under a tree in a massive lightning storm, wearing metal nail tips and wire frame glasses. No exaggeration.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about mere disappointments or let downs. Nor am I talking about a series of unfortunate events. I’m talking about life-numbing-soul-crushing situations or experiences that shatter you, that leave you feeling like a fraction of the person you were only moments before.
Moments like…watching in horror as the City of Lights goes dark during a terrorist attack.
Like looking down the barrel of a loaded shot gun wondering what heaven smelled like.
Like waking up to concede that homelessness or economic devastation is not some far-flung theory fated to those we deem less than. It’s a reality, your reality, one you can no longer deny.
I’m talking about moments, devastating moments, that unhinge and break us. That confuse and pierce us so violently, and suddenly, that we stop breathing. We stop thinking. We stop feeling. We…stop.
At first, we say it’s to compose ourselves, to catch our breath. Later, we see it for what it was: wishful thinking.
Eviscerated. Burdened. Empty. All of it. All the time. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
And then there’s the people. The Johnny-come-lately people. The well-meaning, grossly inconsiderate people who rub us raw with their foul-tongued words and salt-in-wound behavior. They speak out of turn. They disappear at the height of our crisis. They downplay the breadth of our pain, the brutality of it, as if their denial makes it bite any less. They see us withering and still take what little we have.
It’s enough to make you snap or beat your chest or scream or even lash out. And by lash out, I’m mean smack the taste out of somebody. Like a good ‘ole West Indian back-hand-to-the-face kind of smack. You don’t, of course. You day dream about it. Maybe even drool a little.
But in the end, you take a different route. Less traveled? Yes, but wholly worth it. And that route starts with you.
I know. I know. You were probably hoping for something a little more…profound. An aha moment, if you will. And here I am saying, “Nope. Healing starts with us, more specifically, with you.”
You First. I Insist.
Give yourself space to process, to feel, to breathe. You wake up and you breathe. You inhale the air of a new day. You exhale the sting of recent events. You don’t reach for your cape. You don’t reach for shame or embarrassment. You breathe, deeply and fully, allowing you the space to release your emotions in all of its raw, agonizing glory. No hiding. No burying. Just you and space and truth.
Give yourself as much time as you need! For some, it’s few days. Others, A few weeks. In my case it was several months, 18 to be exact. I refused to do what classic Lena would do: rush back to business as usual, ignore the inferno and hope for the best. I got off that merry-go-round and didn’t look back.
Give yourself permission to not have all the answers. You don’t know. You won’t know. It’s beyond you. And that’s okay. You’ve been shattered. You are healing from wounds you could never fathom or anticipate. Healing takes time. The answers will come. Don’t force it. And when you’re ready, test the waters and slowly move forward. Pay close attention to your emotions and thoughts. Look at what rises to the surface. You can always take a step back, reassess and test the waters again.
Healing starts with me, you, us. It begins the moment we acknowledge our pain and take deliberate steps to grant our souls amnesty from judgment and condemnation—be it self-inflicted or via third party. We openly release ourselves from blame and punishment, choosing instead to do all that we must to ensure we are safe, whole and at peace. We choose us first. No apologies.