Work hard, that ye may not work. . .

I read someone the other day saying that she was at a better place than these other people, because she had done the hard work of recovery. It made me mad. Now I need to figure out why.

I guess partly it just feels like she’s making it anyone’s fault if they’re hurt or scarred. Maybe she didn’t mean it that way; maybe she just meant the slope into the pit is slippery, and it’s a constant battle to keep heading toward the light. Maybe. But what I heard was that anyone who was hurting, broken and not “recovered” was like that because it was their own fault.

But even in my anger that she would say such a thing, there is also that voice that says, “yeah, healing is hard.” I don’t even like the word recovery, as though you were all right before and you’ve achieved those same heights. Life is to complicated for words like that to apply to people. But I do know – even from my chosen profession – is that healing is hard. It does take work, and it does take energy, and it does take the courage and bravery to face up to all of the ways that you are still broken. It means looking unflinchingly in the mirror–or maybe, looking in the mirror and flinching, but looking anyway. It takes patience, and time, and deliberation.

I’ve been home about 5 days now, and for the first time since I was home, I have finally, finally felt like I’m able to do “nothing” without guilt, to really rest. We like to think that “recovery” is something we can make into a project, too–how many times have I heard in my head over the last 5 days, echos of the thought of “checking myself into rehab”? I’ll exercise and eat right, and go outside every day. . .catch up on all of my correspondences, finish the projects that need finishing, visit all the friends. . . I will read spiritual books, and write all the things I’ve been meaning to write, and I’ll wean myself from screen addiction. . .I will cross all of my t’s and dot all of my i’s and I will set my house in order and I will fix myself.

But a disciplined regimen you hold yourself to by the force of your own will is hardly a way to rest, hardly a way to heal. You don’t release your mind by shoving it in rigid boxes. You don’t let go of things by holding on tighter.  And being angry at yourself for not being better doesn’t bring around any peace. You can’t be forced into healing.

This is exactly why healing is hard. You can’t put it on your to-do list and check it off. You can’t rush it. And, you’re also never really done. This is all so annoying at so many different levels, that for those of us or are goal-oriented, the temptation to just cram away everything that can’t be dealt with is immense. Sitting here and doing nothing when there’s so much to be done? Sitting here and doing nothing, with time so rapidly slipping through my fingers? Sitting here, when there’s so much to fix and change and define and explain and make better?

The hardness, the work, is in admitting you are broken, admitting you need to attend to that, and coming to terms with the fact that nothing is more important right now than sitting and doing nothing. The hard work is giving up on doing All Of The Things, giving up on being right, and giving up on being Just So. Not for the sake of giving up, but for the sake of accepting: rest. Peace in chaos. Joy, even within troubles. Hope for what is, and for what comes next.

It’s hard to give yourself space to rest, when your body is still full of adrenaline, when your mind is too fitful to allow you to sleep, and when you find yourself restless and impatient and unable to sit in stillness. It’s hard to let go of the fears that you aren’t working fast enough, aren’t accomplishing enough, and are not sufficient for the day. It’s hard to admit that you are less than you would like to be.

Saying that you have done the hard work of recovery, then, is a misnomer. Or at least, I believe it is. Healing is a kind of surrender, a kind of gentleness, that we short ourselves from in our desire to fix ourselves. We need less effort, and more stillness, but that’s advice no one every really takes. . .

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