is a continuously unfolding journey. For twenty five years, I have been working as a nurse. It feels odd to say that as I don’t really feel old enough to have done anything for twenty-five years. In the beginning, back in the day when nurses still wore hats, I already had a truckload of baggage to carry. Painful and distressing things that, at times, threatened to destroy the very life I was trying to make for myself. I had so little to offer the people that I came into contact with for I was so broken and so very vulnerable. Vulnerability is a handicap. I know that it has its place in the perpetual turning of pages, but it makes it no less difficult. As I sat and listened to the fears and sorrows of patients I came into contact with, I wanted to help them. I wanted to reach out to them, to comfort them with gentleness and compassion; to tell them everything would be right with the world again. My problem was that I didn’t believe it and when people have hit the bottom of the world as they know it, they can spot a fraud a mile away. I wanted to believe it, but so did they and because of that, I could not help them. I could not comfort them, I could not share any part of myself because I simply didn’t believe that, through my brokenness, I could make a difference in their lives.
As years passed and God continued to refine my life with experiences that were so full of beauty and sorrow and disappointment and pain, something inside me began to change. A new vision began to emerge. With each life-changing moment that I encountered, I found that, once I came out the other side, there was both less and more of me. I was still vulnerable, still insecure, but somewhere along the way, strength began to build inside me. I began to relate to people on a more personal level, to be able to look them in the eye and try to comfort them with what was born in my heart from my own experiences and know, even as I was saying it, that I could trust it; that the patterns of my life had shifted yet again and an understanding that I simply couldn’t share before began to take shape. I found that I no longer looked past their pain so I wouldn’t have to share mine, but faced it head on. I held the hand of a woman who had lost her husband and two sons in a car crash and we cried together. I hugged tightly the man who just found out his wife of thirty years was dying and he shared his sorrow with me. I touched the face of a young man who had tried to take his own life and I felt as though I knew his thoughts, for in my own head, the same thoughts had circulated. I’ve taken so many of them home with me. I hear their sobbing, see the disillusionment on their face, feel their sorrow in my heart; I pray for them.
This time of year is difficult for so many people. Those who dread the long days and empty nights, the thoughts and imaginings that seem to come unbidden even as they watch the celebrations going on around them. They plant a smile on their face, a smile that never reaches their eyes, and try to be part of what is going on because the other choice is just too painful. Sometimes it is easier to deny that we have pain in our heart than to share it with others. It’s everywhere. The worry, fear and anxiety that comes when the rest of the world is coming together in fellowship and joy, celebrating life and happiness. It is so easy, at this time, to forget to be true to ourselves. To let the memories flow, the sorrows burst through, the pain shatter again, even if only for a moment. Without the purging there can never be healing. And well, for those of us who are vulnerable and so easily hurt by words and actions, it is a bit more difficult. But nothing lasts forever. Not sorrow. Not happiness. Not youth. Not life.
When all is said and done, this is the only life I have to live and while it may be imperfect in so many ways, there are moments that are so beautiful that they take my breath away. It is these moments that I cling to when I feel that there is no one who understands me. I remember the people I have cried with, the ones who have shared their burdens with me and it brings me comfort to know that even though I am vulnerable, I am not alone. The world is full of us and sometimes, just having someone to listen and know, that as they listen, they understand, is as close to a miracle as we can get. Let what you’ve done and what you’ve experienced help to define you in some way, but don’t let it consume you. There are people who need to know that you have been there and that you can relate to them. Our lives decorate the lives of those around us even as they decorate ours. This year, during the “season of giving”, give what only you can; a little piece of yourself.