The spiral of pain and healing

I haven't written here much. Actually, over the scope of this summer, I've hardly written at all. Eleven thousand quiet words on a Word document that needed to escape, but aside from that: nothing.

Perhaps it's because I've been too involved (also slightly neurotic) with formatting and readying my novel in preparation for the eyes of the world to see, that I've hardly had a chance to think about the thoughts somersaulting against the walls of my brain.

I think about how I felt around this same time last summer when I was nervously awaiting what would be my first year of college. In some ways, I feel similarly, the same mix of excitement and nerves. In other ways, I feel unlike anything I've felt before. This year has held a massive amount of pain and euphoria, and I often attempt to comprehend how both sadness and happiness can mingle together like they do.

There are days where I feel on top of the world. These are the days that have mostly been filled with either the preparation of my novel or seeing my nephew. These are the days I am gliding.

And then, there are the others. Days where I awake saddened. Some days I can put my finger on the exact reason why; others I cannot.  But I am learning to lean into this pain. Pain can be a great teacher. 

I've started seeing a counselor. She told me healing is like a spiral.

"Often we think of healing as one straight line. The problem with that is, we easily become discouraged because it seems as though we take steps backward," she told me. Her hair was long and dark, her dress the same. "If we look at healing like a spiral then we can see we are continuing to move forward. But just because we are in the spiral doesn't mean we don't feel the pain."

I stared at the picture she had drawn; the shape of the spiral on the otherwise blank page.

"The spiral seems like a longer journey than the line," I told her.

She laughed. "It is."

I'm learning to lean into this too: this spiral of both pain and healing. Some days the spiral feels unending and other days it feels manageable. I take my pain and use it as fuel, and even this shows me my progress. I'm doing a 40-day prayer challenge; tomorrow will be Day 21. I take my pain and use it as the gasoline to fuel my prayers. I am starting to more fully understand that God is present with me every moment. I am starting to think of my prayers like the artwork a parent collects of their child: something precious and cherished and good. 

I'm starting to think of myself that way too. 

I am grateful for who God is and for how he can take our pain and turn it into something precious; even in the midst of us feeling it. I have learned through this prayer challenge that God can give us eyes to see, empathy to pour out, forgiveness to release. 

When I look back on this summer, I will see a spiral of pain and healing and empathy, but also a spiral of all the ways people and experiences have helped me grow. 

And I will take a deep breath and feel gratitude that God cares about our feelings, knowing true healing is long and slow and wide and filled with rich progress — just like the perseverance I've been praying for.