"The hardest times are when no one is watching and it doesn't really matter whether you're strong or not. The times when you think life is circling the drain, and the bedrock aloneness of it trumps everything else. That's when animal instinct kicks in and most of us start to crawl toward the light.... We like to call it courage, but the body doesn't recognize it as such. You just put your head down and keep moving."
~ Gail Caldwell, from the memoir New Life, No Instructions
Even now, I find myself sometimes thinking of those around me who know nothing of the struggle I fought after D-Day, "if you only knew..." Because while it's great that I survived and, to most, appear to be a healthy, stable, happy middle-aged woman, sometimes I want credit for what I had to do to get here. Sometimes I want people to know what a badass I am. How heroic I am. How many dragons I had to slay to arrive at healthy, stable and happy.
You all know. Because you've either slain your own dragons or are slaying them as I write this.
You know the courage it sometimes takes to get out of bed and show up at work so you don't get fired. You know the particular brand of heroism required to nurture your children and keep their hearts safe even as your own feels shattered and abandoned. You know the white-knuckled self-discipline required to not smother your husband in his sleep, or resist firing off that brutal e-mail to the OW, or bite your tongue hard when your mother-in-law, who hasn't a clue about her son's, um, extracurriculars, comments on what a "good boy" he's always been.
Those who've been decimated by heartbreak, by the particular brand of grief known to those of us who discovered we were, literally, sleeping with the enemy, know what Gail Caldwell means when she talks about crawling toward the light. Though there are many days when we're not really sure there is light. So many days when we just can't convince ourselves that there will ever be light again.
But that's where the others come in. That's where those of us who've gone before wave our lanterns from farther along the path, to beckon you toward us. To give you the light as a compass. To remind you, as often as you need reminding, that the light is in fact up ahead. Just a little bit farther. To assure you that, no, we didn't believe it either. We didn't believe we would ever laugh again, feel happiness again, trust again. But here we are. Mostly healthy, stable and happy.
Keep crawling, warriors. If you can't see the light, then follow the sound of our voices.
You may not call it courage. You may barely be able to admit it's survival. But whether or not you consider it heroic, let me tell you that it is. It's heroic to reach out for help. It's heroic to tend to your wound. It's heroic to insist that you deserve respect and kindness and honesty. When the "bedrock aloneness" threatens to convince you that nobody can possible understand your pain, it's heroic to find your voice and share your story.
Crawl toward the light, my exhausted warriors. We're up ahead, waiting.