I used to think I was wrong for the things I shared and the ways I felt.
When I spoke what was true for me and my experience. When I made real the emotions and experiences that burned inside my heart and left marks on my soul. I used to think I was wrong because people made a point of “correcting” me and telling me what I should feel instead.
As an example, this past Christmas I shared a simple sentiment that meant far more than the handful of words that were contained in my status update:
I survived Christmas. I survived this last year.
It was an update that reflected the full body exhale of getting through that holiday morning. Of knowing that the hardest “firsts” of my grief were behind me. Of recognizing that the more challenging and heartbreaking chapter of my life was behind me. It was over. Past tense. I’d made it through.
A few hours after sharing my truth, a friend and family member replied in the way so many have. “You didn’t just survive,” He started. “Way too thin and narrow. Assumes you are ‘alone’ wading thru this morass. So not true. Take an inventory of your assets, blessings, kudos, etc. I guarantee they exceed your liabilities.”
I smiled… and I exhaled.
Because this was yet another moment where the Universe stepped in to remind me who I’m here to be and the work I’m called to do. And a big piece of that is taking a stand in a way that feels confrontational and hard. It means giving voice to the places and spaces of life that we’ve been denying out of fear and discomfort. For the ones who feel so broken and beaten down, completely invalidated by the “words of comfort” being spewed mindlessly in their direction.
Saying “I survived” is not narrow or negative. It doesn’t make someone ungrateful or weak.
It may feel heavy, because it is. Because it’s laced with thousands of tears that fell from my weary eyes. It’s weighted by the wounds that may never fully heal, but who made me the person I am today. It feels heavy because those words are birthed from heartache and loss and all the ways I was stretched too thin… but that doesn’t make it negative. It doesn’t make me ungrateful for all the good.
It may feel ugly, because it is. Because it comes from the messy and hard spaces of this life that we all have to walk through. It’s not shiny or pretty or easy to look at. Because it’s raw and real and all the things we’re so afraid to admit are true. It feels ugly because it forces us to look at the parts of our lives and selves that we may be denying out of fear and discomfort… but that doesn’t make it wrong.
It may feel dark, because it is. Because it rises from the cracks inside my soul, from the void that nearly consumed me. It’s not bright or fluffy or covered in rainbows and smiling emojis. It comes straight from the spaces we tend to avoid looking, deep in the depths of grief and loss and heartbreak like no other… but that doesn’t mean it’s not also light. That it doesn’t represent all that’s good in this life.
Saying “I survived” is a tiny statement that sums up an incredible amount of gratitude, unbelievable strength, and a whole lot of grace.
There’s so much to be grateful for from all that I’ve experienced. From all the ways I was left shattered this past year. I don’t need to be reminded of this fact, because I will be the first to tell you if you ask.
I will be the first to tell you that being cracked open in the most painful and awful of ways is what allows me to see the world with so much love and appreciation. It’s what allows me to show up more fully and completely, and have the immense clarity that I do in my life and work. It’s what allowed me to step into a love like I’ve never known, and to be surrounded by the most generous and loving souls.
It’s also what allows me to see how narrow minded I’d been in the past. The ways I inadvertently invalidated those who had been through, or were still walking through, a kind of hell that changes you at your core. That makes you question everything you thought you knew about life. A kind of hell that breaks you in ways you never fully mend from.
Because I thought the only thing that mattered was “positive thinking.” Gratitude and only acknowledging the “good” over the “bad” and “negative.” I was wrong. These are truly amazing and powerful things… but until we learn to embrace the full range of emotions and experiences of this life, we’re living more than a little off balanced. We’re denying parts of life and ourselves that are real and true and important. We’re holding ourselves back from deep, true, whole healing.
So yes… I survived last year.
I walked through the hardest chapter of my life to date because I found a way to pick myself up off the floor time and time again. I summoned up the courage to walk into healing that broke me further than I’d already been broken so that I could begin to mend. I found my footing inside the wreckage. I found myself inside the darkness. I made it through.
This loss. The ongoing healing. Last year. The holiday season.
I survived it all.
And that’s neither negative or narrow.
It’s simply true.
And it’s woven together with massive love, appreciation, and fierce gratitude. The kind we can’t know until we walk head first, eyes and heart wide open, into the hard, heavy, dark, and ugly parts of life.