Updated: Nov 28, 2019
Each of us has a truth. Each of us has a story that we present to the world. Often this story has missing pieces. The pieces of our truth that we hide away. We may hide it because it makes us uncomfortable to talk about, but I think we often worry that we will make other people uncomfortable, so we try to be polite and censor ourselves for other people's benefit.
I'm going to tell you a bit about my truth. My story involves death. If this is an uncomfortable topic for you that you'd like to avoid, or a triggering topic that is best you avoid, this is your warning, and I'm happy if you choose to move on right now.
Just after my 29th birthday, I was the happiest girl in the world. I was almost finished my PhD, I had a ton of cool travel opportunities to present my work, my common-law partner and I had recently gotten our "if we can look after a puppy, maybe we can look after a baby" puppy, and I was super in love with both of them. My heart was overflowing and I was so excited at the idea of growing a family and a life with them. I felt like after so many years of hard work with school, working multiple jobs to pay for school, and John having a job that was just a little too far away, this whole "making it work for school" business was coming to an end and life was finally coming together. I couldn't wait and it felt incredible!
My extreme happiness was short-lived. Less than a month after my 29th birthday, John was killed in a motorcycle accident. My entire world crumbled. The 4th of July. Independence day.
I was broken. I am broken.
Grief is an interesting passenger. It's like a shadow that is always with you. In the light, it walks beside you, sometimes tapping you on the shoulder, sometimes smacking you in the face. In the dark, it just completely consumes you. I won't get into grief right, but it is not something that I am shy about, so if you ever need or want a discussion, always feel free to ask. I don't talk about it often because I've been asked not to on multiple occasions, but I'm not actually against the discussion.
I digress. Back on topic:
When life shatters, of course the first instinct is to fix it. My first attempts at rebuilding life were to quickly put the pieces back together exactly as they were and to hold on tightly to try to keep it together. It was exhausting. One piece was missing and it no longer held nicely together.
Brokenness is awful! It makes you feel weak, useless, worthless, burdensome, excluded, unwanted, exhausted. In a world that shuns imperfections, emotions, and differences, being broken is not exactly seen as something to celebrate.
Recognizing the need to let go is a huge step and a strength on it's own. It's tuning in to your intuition and knowing what it is you need. Actually letting go is a monstrous task. It challenges you to question the things you "know" to be true in the world and forces you to be open to new possibility and the unknown. To let go of comforts and trust you'll be ok. To stop struggling to keep your head above water and trust that you'll float. It requires so much strength, courage, and heart.
Brokenness prepares you for transformation. You can choose to struggle to hold the pieces of your life together as they once were, or you can let go. Let the pieces fall away, land as they will. You can pick and choose which pieces to bring with you to the next phase of your life and which to leave behind. You can choose to leave it all behind and explore new opportunities.
Transformation is not easy. It requires a lot of strength to make it through. It's painful, gritty, and emotional. It's simultaneously feeling the strongest and the weakest you've ever been. It's wavering between confidence and doubt. It's being happy, joyful, loving, and thankful, but also feeling grief for the loss of who and what you were before. It is becoming a more compassionate, stronger, more loving human being. It's unconditional self-acceptance shadowed by self-hate. It's maybe a forever ongoing process. I've not come to the end yet, so I'm not sure if a "butterfly" phase exists in this case.
It's funny that each year on my birthday, I wonder what's the purpose of celebrating. You're just alive another year, so what? But each year on the 4th of July, I feel like survival deserves all the celebration in the world. It's a tough road, but I truly believe that wherever I am headed is better than where I've been - and I mean the where I've been that I could actually go back to. That is the struggling to hold the pieces together girl, not the extremely happy 29 year old. That girl is gone. There is no going back. The only option is to backtrack to the struggle, or move forward, imperfectly broken with courage to the unknown.
WOMAN OF STRENGTH I have never met a strong woman who has never been broken. She had to learn how to pick herself up and carry on. She had to learn how to depend on herself for happiness. ~Tene Edwards, Walk with Wings