78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Healing Without Wholeness


heal (v.)
Old English h├Žlan "cure; save; make whole, sound and well," from Proto-Germanic *hailjan (cf. Old Saxon helian, Old Norse heila, Old Frisian hela, Dutch helen, German heilen, Gothic ga-hailjan "to heal, cure"), literally "to make whole."
I struggle with this.  I have been on this quest for most of my life, the quest to "become whole."  I laid down my sword in this battle recently.  I'm done.  No, I haven't reached "wholeness" or at least I don't think I have.  I remain scarred, broken, and wounded.  I'm just tired of the search and the work for something I now think is unattainable.  
I question the idea that we come into this world whole and if only the best things happen to us we would remain so.  Some of us enter life already injured, mentally or physically, or both.  Some who endure deeply wounding experiences are incredibly resilient and move forward in living their lives to their fullest.  Others, to whom nothing horrible appears to have happened, feel crippled by even getting up in the morning.  Many of us are combinations of both, depending on the day.  

Physically, I've been mostly healthy, but the places in my body that have been made un-whole bear the evidence.  There are scars and small fractures where the experience left its mark.  There is no such thing as putting something back the way it was before.  It works much the same way with emotional injuries.  Healing is, at best, mostly.  Not whole, not complete, not ever.

One of the most compelling things about Christianity for me was its focus on healing.  I embraced the religion in the aftermath of a deeply traumatic and abusive marriage and the promises of healing in the Bible gave me intense hope. But looking back at my time within that religion, I can't say for certain that healing came, at least not specifically through practicing the religion. Time, love, experience -- these things helped greatly.  Therapy helped a lot more.

whole (adj.)

Old English hal "entire, unhurt, healthy," from Proto-Germanic *khailaz "undamaged" (cf. Old Saxon hel, Old Norse heill, Old Frisian hal, Middle Dutch hiel, Dutch heel, Old High German, German heil "salvation, welfare"), from PIE *koilas (cf. Old Church Slavonic celu "whole, complete.") The spelling with wh- developed early 15c.
According to the dictionary, the whole is all there is, every part, member, aspect.  It is the complete sum, amount, quantity of anything.  Something that is whole is not divided. It is undiminished, integral, complete, unimpaired, perfect.

So I needed a different definition since it became clear this kind of return to emotional Eden was not going to happen.  I am now inspired by people who, though damaged and decidedly not whole, live in peace with themselves and others.  Who, despite not having much to offer, are generous and outreaching.  Not because they don't hurt, but because they understand hurt.  These people are patient with others because they understand that living broken makes us walk with our own peculiar limp. They're not offended when their efforts to embrace are rebuffed because sometimes just touching raw, wounded people can hurt them.  These people have not erased their injuries but incorporated them into themselves as part of the package. 

For me, wholeness is better described by acceptance.  My spine, for example, is crooked.  Extremely crooked.  It looks something like this but more pronounced:

My spine will never be straight.  I will never know a pain free day.  It hasn't stopped me from dancing, working out, hiking, running -- well, ok, sometimes running hurts.  I have learned that strengthening the muscles around my spine helps reduce the pain tremendously.  I am not on pain medications.  I have some limitations, but I work around them.  I accept that my spine will forever be crooked, I accept that I will never be "whole."  For me this works a lot better than trying to become whole in reality.  It is a kind of "wholeness in spite of not whole."  This is the same approach I now use in terms of emotional wholeness.  Healing, then, is not a quest to return to some untarnished state but to move forward with acceptance of one's broken pieces.  Where there are limitations, find a way to work around them.  There are days when my back hurts so much I can't do the things I planned.  Those days I am gentle with my body and rest.  So it is with emotional hurts, even those from long ago that, for some reason, have flared up with an unintentional trigger experience.  Give yourself time and space.  Don't berate yourself for not having healed yet.  Who said you will?  Who told you that there would come a time when you would never hurt again from that injury or damage?  Maybe so, but maybe not.  Instead of hoping for some future time when it won't hurt ever again, find your way through the pain now.  Do things that strengthen the muscles around the injured parts.  Be kind to yourself and rest.  Tell that nagging voice in your head to sit down and shut up because it is what it is and you are who you are, broken parts and all.