"She had to do more than hold on. She had to . She had to want it more than she’d ever wanted anything. She had to grab like a drowning girl for every good thing that came her way and she had to swim like fuck away from every bad thing. She had to count the years and let them roll by, to grow up and then run as far as she could in the direction of her best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by her own desire to heal…Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”~Cheryl Strayed, author of Tiny, Beautiful Things and Wild
So often I tell those of you who come here seeking hope and healing that you need to give it time. Time is a four-letter word as the minutes feel like days and the days like lifetimes. Three to five years is the general estimate for getting past betrayal, say the experts. Three to five YEARS most of us scream when we first hear it. YEARS?? We were hoping a few months of tears and recriminations and somehow this would be behind us.
But though I stand by my insistence that time is a great healer, healing isn't a passive exercise in watching the minute hands sweep. It's not enough to simply mark the days off a calendar, like a prisoner awaiting release. As Strayed advises any of us seeking a release from suffering, we need to fight like hell for it.
It sounds exhausting, doesn't it? Surviving feels Herculean and now I'm asking you to fight like hell. Seriously? Well, yes. I am.
Not right away. Not without taking a break now and again to gestate, like a caterpillar inside a cocoon.
But nobody but us can reach for our own salvation from this. Nobody is going to ride in on a white horse and save us. (And frankly, be wary of anyone promising to do that.)
Cry. Rant and rave. Write your story out until you're spent. And always, always reach.
What are we reaching for? What do we hold on to when we don't know whether to stay or go? When we don't know whether to believe the pretty words on our partner's lips that sound so much like the pretty lies we believed?
We reach for healing. Healing that looks like wholeness, with or without him. Healing that looks like shore when we're drowning. Healing that comes from a heart strengthened where it was broken and capable of deep self-love and compassion.
We find that healing within our own determination to survive this. To know that, no matter how shattered we feel today, there's still tomorrow. And the next tomorrow. And that one of these tomorrows, we'll feel a crack open in the darkness and tiniest sliver of light will show through. But we have to be looking for it. We have to be reaching for it. Through radical self-care (that will be called selfishness by those around us unaccustomed to seeing us love ourselves. Ignore them). Through compassion and forgiveness for ourselves for whatever we deem our failings to be – we should have known, we should have handled it better, we should have done things differently. Maybe. I've yet to meet a soul who's lived his/her life perfectly. Let it go.
We heal through sharing our stories with others here and in real life. We heal through the unbelievable support and love I see every single day on this site from women in agony but nonetheless able to reach out to another and to remind her that she's lovely and lovable and loved.
We heal by reaching as far as we can. Some days that reach will be short. But that's okay. Because others that reach will extend into a future that includes the recognition that we are not where we were. That we feel whole. That we – yes, let's say it! – we have healed.