Saturday, August 11, 2018

Broken Legs and Broken Lives

Time heals all wounds.

I am sure you have had someone tell you that before. Maybe you were going through a painful relationship breakup or the end of your marriage. Perhaps you lost a loved one. Or maybe all you had built, your career or business or life’s work, came to an unexpected end.

In such situations, well-meaning people will often try to encourage you by saying, "Time heals all wounds."

And they're not entirely wrong, but they are also not entirely correct. Time does heal all wounds, but that doesn’t mean it always heals them right. To understand this we need to think about a broken bone.

Let’s say you break your leg (skiing, or in a car wreck, or trying to do the floss dance). Given time, the broken bone will heal.

  • First your body will form a blood clot around the break to help fill the gap and send in needed cells.
  • Next these cells will start to produce cartilage between the broken portions to join the bones back together.
  • Finally, real bone forms to complete the healing of the break.

The entire process can take months or even years, but time will heal the wound. The question is... will it heal properly?

To make sure it heals correctly, what do we use? We put on a cast.

The purpose of the cast (besides giving friends something to sign) is to stabilize the leg and keep the broken bones properly aligned. That way when the bone repairs itself, it will heal straight.

Without a cast the bone will heal, but it can heal crooked. This could make it difficult or impossible to walk or run correctly, or could cause pain for the rest of your life from sore muscles and inflamed tendons and ligaments.

So what does this have to do with emotional pain? Well having a broken leg is a lot like having a broken life. In both cases:

  • You are in perpetual pain.
  • You find you can’t function like normal, not even being able to do the simplest routine tasks.
  • It gets especially difficult at night when you are not able to fall asleep.
  • And the medications, given to help with the pain, end up making your head fuzzy so it is hard to think straight.

But just like having a broken bone, when you have brokenness in your life you need to put on a cast. A life cast.

While time is healing your wounded heart, you need to surround yourself with things that will make sure it is healing straight and true. These things will likely be different for different people, but may include many of the following:

  • Get rest and sleep. Let your mind and heart and body recover. Your mind is most likely filled with anxiety or regrets or anger. You need to turn it off at night, so you can think more clearly the next day.
  • Get exercise. It can be walking or jogging or biking or yoga or playing a sport or lifting weights. Just do something you enjoy that moves your body and races your heart and tires your muscles. It may hurt but it will make you stronger and healthier and release those wonderful needed endorphins. Lately I have discovered orienteering which for me is an awesome combination of exercise, hiking, and problem solving.
  • Eat well. Unfortunately my “go to” food of choice in a crisis is Ben and Jerry’s Cinnamon Roll ice cream, which may just be the most delicious thing ever created. Nutrition is one of the first things we let slip when we are hurting, but a suffering body makes everything else in life seem worse.
  • Do a hobby. Maybe something you have always wanted to try. Or maybe an old favorite pastime you let slip away. Do something you enjoy. Write, paint, build, read, travel, cook, craft, woodwork, play games, or such. As I have been working through my pain, I have been taking time to write again as a way to be creative, but also to process my feelings.
  • Connect with others. As an introvert by nature, this one can be especially difficult for me, but we are not meant to be alone. We need to spend time with others to share life, to find and give encouragement, and to get our butts off the couch and our minds off our own problems for a while. If you don’t know where to begin, the Meetup app for your phone is a great way to find local groups of people who share your interests and hobbies.
  • See a counselor. Talking to friends is wonderful and encouraged, but it is so helpful to also have someone you can say anything to with no concern about hurting their feelings or straining your relationship. We need an outside perspective from someone who is not too close to the situation, to help us see clearly.

In short, fill your life with things that bring you healing and strength and joy. Whatever those things may be. Do the things now that you want “Future You” to be doing, five years from now when you have come out on the other side of this stronger and healthier. Do these things because they are your life cast.

Without these things, the wound will close and the bone will mend, but it may be crooked and you will find yourself living with unforgiveness and bitterness and self-destructive habits.

Just like you would put a cast on your broken leg, surround your life now with a cast of self-care, connections, and healthy activities. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick. There will still be nights of pain and days of frustration. But day by day, sometimes hour by hour, you will heal. And you will heal true and straight and strong.

Time heals all wounds. Make sure your wounds heal well.