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Monday, September 26, 2016

When healing hurts

The other day I sliced off a size-able chunk of my thumb with a mandoline.  I was shredding some cabbage for cole slaw and I thought, I don't need to use the holder.  My fingers aren't even close to the blade.

I walked rather sheepishly onto the back porch and called to Joel, who was doing some yard work.

"I need you to take over in here.  My thumb's bleeding pretty bad."

Pretty bad was a bit of an understatement.  Slight gushing would probably be more accurate.  I wrapped a paper towel tight around the wound, and watched as the blood seeped onto the outer layer.

"I'll be back," I said and made my way upstairs.

Through gritted teeth I washed out the cut, replaced the dangling flap of skin and wrapped my thumb with plenty of padding.  I didn't see how the bleeding would stop, though, so I watched it carefully, knowing if it soaked through I would likely be making a trip to the doctor.

But it did stop.  Not entirely, just enough that it never bled through.  A few hours later I changed the bandage.  It bled again as I cleaned it out, but not as long this time, or as much.

It continued like that for days.  Eventually it stopped bleeding when I changed the bandaid, but any time I'd do the dishes or bath the kids, I would bump it, just slightly, and the bleeding would start again.  Which left me with no choice but to delegate all dishes and bathing to Joel for the entirety of the weekend.  Devastating.  But it worked.  It allowed my finger the time it needed to heal, and by Sunday afternoon I could tell something new was growing underneath that dead flap of skin.

On Sunday evening it was like my finger just let go of the old skin.  Like it had done its job, and wasn't needed anymore.  And I was shocked that underneath it all my finger had created its own band aid.  As Finn said, it looked like plastic.  Like a thin sheet of plastic tightly covering the wound, protecting it.  Three days earlier I couldn't have imagined it healing on its own.   I was scared to look at it, terrified to see how bad and painful it had become.  But now it's nearly beautiful in its healing.  It's not back to normal, but I'm starting to see that one day, it might be.

When we first moved here over five years ago I was a bit in shock.  And then I was thrilled.  And then miserable.  Angry.  Miserable again.  I remember asking Joel beforehand, What if it ruins everything?  We're happy now.  Life is good.  What if this move destroys our marriage and our family and our general contentment?

And for that first year or so, it did.  I felt a lot of emotions in that first year, hopeful, terrified, confused, furious, excited.  But I don't remember, even once, feeling content.  Marriage felt hard, parenting felt hard, going to the grocery store or walking down the street felt hard.  I didn't see how it would ever get easier and frankly, had it been fairly simple to abort mission and head on home, I probably would have.

But slowly, slowly the bleeding subsided.  It got less painful by small degrees.  There were moments it almost felt normal.  And then I'd end up with the wrong order from McDonald's or someone would fail to return my smile and the old wound would open up again.  But underneath, all that time, there was healing.

And one day, or over many days, more likely, I let go of the old me.  The me who lived in Pennsylvania for nearly her whole life and who loved things simple and convenient and, most importantly, familiar.

It's starting to feel like fall here.  I still remember my first autumn in Budapest.  I remember the cooling air and the crackling leaves, even the hot coffee, and how I couldn't enjoy any of it because it all made me sorely miss home.  It felt like an ache in my heart, a wound that I just couldn't imagine getting any better.

Fast forward five years... the other night Joel met the kids and I at a playground near the city.  I was wearing a light sweater and jeans, breathing in the touch of fall in the air.  Aiden and Finn were climbing trees, Benji was swinging a long stick with little regard for anything, or anyone, around him.  Joel sat down beside me and we talked about our days and the kids and Finn's quickly approaching birthday.

Eventually we walked to our favorite little pizza place.  The workers, who I used to believe hated us, seemed genuinely happy to see our little family, and knew our order before we could even say it.  We ate outside, under a canopy of green, and my heart felt full.  Content.

Life here is not picture perfect, of course, but five years ago I never would have seen this coming.  Five years ago I would have still been trying to glue down that dead flap of skin, to make it fit and stop the bleeding, even just temporarily.

This move did ruin everything.  For a time.  And then the everything started to heal and now it's even stronger, and even wiser.

Because it knows now when things are hard and you don't even want to peek under the bandaid for fear of just how bad it might be, there is still healing.  It might take time and it definitely won't be easy, but we were designed to heal.

Even when healing seems the most unlikely option.