I didn’t want to leave Europe last week, but contrary to popular belief, I do have responsibilities, a couple of which were important that I return for. Miserably though, insult was added injury, and besides immediately feeling heartsick over leaving Scandinavia, mere hours after returning home, I became body sick, and I am now approaching day five of feeling like I’m 90, not being able to eat, spending 10 to 15 hour stretches in fitful sleep, interrupted by making the trek up the stairs to watch Novelas (I want to be productive), which leaves me breathless, and not because the soaps are racy. (I wouldn’t know anyway. I understand about 20 percent of what is going on).
This is my world of contrast. One week, life so full, exciting, new, and intriguing, with little limitations, and the next week, the pace muted, the spirit dulled, and the body aching.
Maybe this is a testament, a reminder in my life, to deeply appreciate the moments of beauty. One expects life to always be a certain way, to flow in a fashionable, maybe predictable manner, and when it doesn’t, the common reaction seems to be surprise. But when is life predictable, and how do I expect to fully acknowledge the incredible gifts of living, when I haven’t experienced the pain of missing?
If you know me, you could verify that I am bubbly, laugh often, and throw my smile around easily, but a few years ago, I went through a season when the bubbles were dry, the laugh lost, and the smile as pained as my spirit.
I was sitting, hunched, cross-legged, arms stretched out in front of me. I lifted my head and stared in the mirror, my silhouette reflected back. It wasn’t the hot pink top that loosely formed my pale skin that was noticed or that made the sharp, pang of fear rise in my throat, but it was the distant, emotionless look in my eyes that caused my breath to catch. I didn’t recognize myself. I didn’t want to be there, and in my eyes, I wasn’t. I didn’t want to be the girl sitting in front of the mirror, because who was she?
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And the moments you don’t recognize yourself are the scariest of all.
I lived, or survived in my broken world, not knowing where the answers and plans would come from, but healing and happiness stepped its way back into my life, in forms I would have never predicted. In flying, in travel, in community, in many sunsets spent riding my beach cruiser. In watching dolphins play in the surf.
My mom asked me once, “If you could change one thing from this year, what would it be?” I thought for at least five minutes before answering. I thought of my boyfriend that broke my heart. I thought of all of the job rejections. I thought of the fights with my father and the failures of moving back home after college. I thought of the choices that I had unknowingly made that had broken me.
And I realized that I couldn’t change any of it. I couldn’t change it because I wasn’t sure if I liked the person I was before the challenges. The struggles had made me realize that beyond any doubt, that I needed Someone to save me, and that there were areas in my life that I was not meant to handle alone. Through pain, I had developed a new understanding of the world, a sense of compassion that wasn’t in my life prior, and even though I was not satisfied with stagnancy, in staying where I was, I knew that these experiences had shaped my character for the better.
Yes, my world is full of contrasts, and I note the contrasts more often now, discovering an appreciation due to my past. The past is better served not in wishful want, but as an indication of how far one has traveled in their own life.
Being sick reminds me that I can’t always be flying high, and when I do feel better, it makes the view at the top of a hill in Palos Verdes, walking through medieval towns and cobbled squares, or enjoying a cappuccino that much more special.
As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves. Mahatma Ghandi