I Hurt

I suppose I should get out of bed. That’s what I told myself for well over two hours. I should get out of bed.

If I have something to do, I manage it. You don’t live with depression for as long as I did without developing a few strategies for coping with an energy-sapping roommate like that. The first was always: fulfill obligations.

This morning, I did get up and dress for Mass. I even managed to drive to the church — a new church since the priest in town thinks Mass is a theatrical production, not a worship service. I don’t have patience for shenanigans like that. Unfortunately, the website for the new church hadn’t listed the correct time, and I didn’t have the energy to start looking for a different church.

I went home and went back to bed. Sleep is a wonderful way to escape emotional pain — when emotional pain doesn’t keep you awake, poking and prodding with unanswerable questions until your bed is a tangle of sheets and you’re physically exhausted from tossing and turning. I did manage a couple hours of deep and dreamless sleep; my body was probably exhausted — it happens.

As I lay in bed, I remembered a passage from a book I read more than 20 years ago. I had picked it up on a discount table, where I found most of my books in that pre-ebook era — Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood by Wayne Muller. I was no longer in therapy, having unraveled most of the knots which resulted from the physical, sexual and psychological abuse I had suffered. However, I hadn’t found my way back to God.

I vacillated between feeling unworthy — I had been raised Catholic after all — and being angry with God for the plethora of obstacles he had flung in my path. In my late-30s, I was a single parent with two children, receiving no child support, working two jobs with a combined income that still placed us well below poverty level, and had no day-to-day emotional support. Instead, I always seemed to be mothering some young woman or another who latched onto me until she found her bearings.

I was putting one foot in front of the other, but that was about as good as it got. In some ways, I was grieving what might have been. I was smart. I was willing to work hard. What might have been had my life been different? But, there was also the despair of knowing my life wasn’t going to get much better. As a single woman in a low income bracket without the redeeming quality of physical attractiveness, I was always going to be disposable.

I knew that and the knowledge hurt. I wanted desperately to find a relationship with God that would carry me through, that would make the burden bearable. I don’t know that Muller helped me find my way back to God, but he did offer what was for me a life-changing idea. He said we have to enter into our pain and learn what the pain has to teach us to experience healing. He writes about counseling a client, “For just a moment, imagine letting go of the ‘Why’ and just allow yourself to say, ‘I hurt.’ Nothing more, just repeat that phrase a few times slowly, ‘I hurt.'”

I hurt.

How many times over the years have I gone back to those simple words, lived with them, and then slowly allowed healing to enter into my life? Two? Three? Four? The emotional wounds that are nearly as incapacitating as physical wounds don’t come often, but when they come, they take a toll. They not only disrupt your emotional equilibrium, but also churn through your life like a tornado, tearing apart relationships and routines, leaving everything in disarray.

You have to rebuild or move on. I’ve moved on after devastating job losses. This loss is different. I don’t know what I will do, what I can do. I spend hours laying in bed, wrapped in a warm knitted blanket, and mentally review the carnage. I say those two simple words over and over, “I hurt. I hurt.”

In a book which has offered me much encouragement over the years — The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher — Penelope loses the love of her life during war. When she receives the news, she recalls a poem her lover read to her, a poem from Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal, which contains the lines: “There will be time to audit / The accounts later, there will be sunlight later / And the equation will come out at last.” As she recalls the lines, one phrase — there will be sunlight later — stays with her “And it seemed as good a way as any to start out on the left-over life that lay ahead.”

There is always “the left-over life that lay ahead” which must be lived. I know this, and I will undoubtedly manage to live it. But right now, the way is not clear. I can only cling to the words that were a life raft in the past, and hope they will once again help me to keep my head above water.

I hurt.

I can only trust “there will be sunlight later.”


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