The Heart of the Brave

This morning I seize a few precious moments of quiet while munching Irish cheese and strawberries (of the American variety.) Back from across the ocean after days of pressing beyond fatigue, I finally take a moment to stop. Stop posting pictures on social media, stop chasing Facebook feeds in between medical appointments and STOP unpacking and washing and sorting and re-organizing. I’ve been up at 4 am and then, thankfully, at 5 as my body adjusts to another time zone, and I’ve been rushing forward so I can elude the fatigue. 

Sometimes life is like this. We run, not towards something, but from it.  There is a biological alert set off by pain. Fix it, stop it, hold it at bay. Chase after anything that takes our minds off it… we become afraid to sit still because we might just fall apart.  Prolong the chase, numb the pain, escape for one more moment. Yet I have learned it’s the falling apart I need most.

I saw it this week- big burly guys allowing grief and loss pour out, recognizing the biological need for release. Such willingness to face devastation is beautiful. Breath entangled in tears, sorrow reaching across the room, touching every kindred heart. It is excruciating to sit there and try to remember how to breathe and not break down- because I desperately need the breaking down. We need this disassembling of walls because they don’t hold us together; they hold us apart.

In medically challenging circumstances we speak of ‘daily braveness’- and what is bravest of all is to look into what has broken us and grasp the hand beside us so we can begin to heal. This is consecrated community- we need each other. When a heart has been dragged across shards of shrapnel, the truth is that we are only alone in the battle if we choose to be.

Near the end of last week the opportunity was offered to give feedback. The heart of the question was how to best meet the many varying needs of such a large group. Some desperately need to hear the others’ stories, and some are not ready to hear that which stirs up their own woundedness.

I don’t have all the answers but I know this: pain is a sign that something needs to be dealt with- whether in spirit, soul, or body. When pain rises up, the guttural reaction is to press it down, hide it behind a brave front. I am still learning that it takes great courage to face the pain- and even more to share it. Yet sharing is cathartic- especially in a group of souls who walk a similar road. The greatest gift offered is the gift of hearts who understand. I’ve shared more than once that sometimes, when I talk about my life, people look back at me with a cross between shock and horror. Last week all I experienced was empathy and encouragement and extravagant love. 

The gathering together in a real life adventure, the living and eating and sharing stories and bonding over shared suffering is a balm like no other. These gatherings carve out a climate of safety- a place to cry out and not be judged. Sometimes this gathering can save a life, a marriage. And sometimes, it is the anchoring of a floundering soul.

There is such courage within the men and women I met this last week- they are a very real reminder that I do not walk alone. Healing can seem a titanic task- yet these brave souls embody this truth: our strength is in each other. When we can’t be strong on our own, we do not have to be. 

We may be broken, but we are all in this together, and healing is possible- when we are willing work through the pain, with help from understanding hearts and those trained to help us.

Fight or flight is a daily choice; we all have the power to choose. We can claim daily braveness and choose the work of healing, day by day,  moment by moment, never alone–   until the darkness becomes a little brighter, and in time, brighter still. 

~Just Me 

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