When you are in the thick of sadness and difficult circumstances, the reminder "Time heals all wounds" can feel like advice that has the sturdiness of wet cardboard. Yet, those words turn out to be true and solid enough to stand on. I won't swear that time completely heals the wounds and that you won't be left with some pretty gnarly scars or walk with a noticeable limp, but the passage of time does make the sting less sharp and you, much stronger.
Case in point:
Last year, I was a blubbery mess on the Fourth of July. That afternoon, I discovered that yet another pregnancy attempt had not worked out. (This was our "lucky" thirteenth failed try.) While I know that I cried through basically the whole day, my strongest memory of that time was going to watch a big fireworks display with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, whom we were visiting in Florida. We were at the beach, and the whole shoreline was terribly congested with people. Not surprisingly, much of the crowd was made up of parents bringing their children to watch the fireworks. This normally happy scene was course salt scraping my wound. I saw a father holding a chubby baby close to his chest, and my bottom lip started trembling as I watched the infant snuggle his head more deeply into his father's shoulder. Would I ever get to hold my own child? I spent the evening wearing a constant frown, interrupted only by sporadic and embarrassing bouts of weeping. Let's just say that I was not so subtle in my grief. My aunt, full of compassion but at a loss for how to fix the unfixable problem, passed me a Dum-Dum sucker from her purse and asked, "Will this make you feel a little better?" I wrapped my frowny lips around the candy and tried to suck it up in more than one way. That night and the two subsequent failed pregnancy attempts in the following months marked a real low point in my life.
I'm not sure that I can articulate how or when I crawled out of that hole, but I do know that, gradually and with time, I am not where I once was.
To continue with the case in point:
This Fourth of July, we spent the evening at a friend's house celebrating her sister's 50th birthday. A number of mutual friends also came to the party. There was lots of food, laughter, and conversation. Some people played music outside by the fire pit, which only added to the festive atmosphere. We drank wine and ate leftover ice cream cake, a personal favorite of mine. My friends had purchased a semi-arsenal of small fireworks, and the teenagers at the party were excited to set them off.
Once the sun went down, we all gathered around the fire pit to tell stories and enjoy the cool of a summer evening in the mountains. Farther down the hill from us in a large white farmhouse by the creek, a local family was having a huge reunion celebration. Around the time we were began firing Roman candles and bottle rockets, these neighbors started shooting off professional (read: illegal) fireworks. I'm talking the real deal of fireworks- the same stuff we watched at the beach on the previous Fourth but with more pauses for reloading. Pretty soon, our now measly fireworks display was doing a comical call-and-response with the neighbors' superior pyrotechnics. Each "Boom!" and "Pow!" from down the hill was answered with a "fizzzz...." or "hisssssss....." on our end. We began laughing hysterically at this mismatch. We decided that, if this were a battle, we were clearly losing. The teenagers who were in charge of setting off our fireworks thought we were just laughing as a result of funny conversations and did not know we were doubled over because of the tiny, farting explosives they ignited. The whole scenario brought me to tears- the good kind, this time.
I do not know exactly when it hit me, but somewhere perhaps between a sip of white wine, a giggle, and a bite of ice cream I realized that I was feeling deep, abiding joy instead of the bottomless sorrow I experienced just 365 days prior. I took in a long breath of mountain air mixed with smoke from the fire and felt true gratitude. Gratitude for the healing process. Gratitude for the support of friends. Gratitude that life, at its core, is kind. Gratitude that trouble doesn't last forever. Gratitude for the other side. Gratitude for my own strength and tenacity. And ever so grateful for the ability to laugh.
It was then that I realized this July Fourth was my own Independence Day. I declared my independence from feeling like a victim. My independence from hormone pills and ovulation predictor kits. My independence from going broke due to constant medical bills. My independence from letting the rhythm of my life be dictated by cycles of procedures and two week waits. My independence from basing the whole of my identity on whether or not I was a parent. My independence from ignoring all the blessings present in my life. My independence from feeling like a hopeless case. On a day in which we give thanks for freedom, I experienced my own little emancipation.
So yes, the medicine of time does heal wounds. I cannot say that I don't still have residual tenderness at the wound site, but I know that I am getting better. I might still feel sad and jealous when someone announces a pregnancy (Why is it so easy for so many? Why wasn't it easy for me?), but I am learning to be happy for others again. Sure, trying to become a parent is still a part of my life, but I am not letting the process become my whole life. At long last, I am happy to report that the darkness I once walked through is now filled with great bursts of light.
It's bright and beautiful and enough to put all of the fireworks in the world to shame.