Of healing + waves
Healing comes in waves. Waves that can be tall or short. Waves that can move fast or slow. Some waves are carriers that carry near to the surface animals from the deep that are shaped like memories. Other waves throw into the air relics once drowned and the version of yourself you used to be when you first tried to jump into rushing waters to save them. Other waves come as dreams in the night and leave you shipwrecked on the edge of the morning coughing up water over the sunrise.
I had a dream like that this week. A dream that was an open wound bleeding the sea. I woke up confused. Looking at the clock I saw it was 5 am, about 3 hours before I needed to be up. The sun had only just begun its ascent, pinks and oranges were still marking out its path but I could feel from behind me that the sea was not over with me yet. The pull of its tide was still strong, but I wasn’t ready to face it. I turned instead to watch random youtube videos: ‘Five reasons that love island is racist’ and ‘What does Justin Bieber telling his fans that he doesn’t appreciate them being outside of his home tell us about toxic celebrity culture?’
I knew I couldn’t avoid the waves for too long. Healing comes in waves but I don't believe that it is without reason. Waves call us to explore the deep oceans of our souls. To discover what memories swim around in us and why, what the past wants to teach us about our present, and what choices are ours to make. I started to write in my journal about the dream that I had, the desires it had shown me, the fears that were present, the past version of myself I had seen. In the dream, I had lived out a vision of healing that I had been wanting to see actualized in my life. I was so happy. Finally! Dream me had said. I was filled with so much elation that things were finally better. Relief opened up my chest to the sky and then I woke up and realized none of it was real and my chest collapsed back into itself. I felt foolish at the naivety of thinking that such a vision could ever be real.
I started to pray, not because I wanted to but because I thought that I should. I knew that leaning into the Divine was the wisest thing to do, Jesus knew what it was like to hope and to hurt too, He could help me to find some release. As soon as I whispered the first prayer it was as when God said let there be light. I spoke and all the waves were called into being at the shore. The difference this time is that I was awake and my face was the shore the waves crashed onto. For a while, I could only taste the salt of frustration. Frustration at how dreams can project a false reality. Frustration at the process of healing. Frustration at feeling like no matter how hard you try nothing is good enough. Frustration at knowing the healing of generational things is tied up in your showing up. Frustration at knowing that even if you wanted to get off this path you couldn’t because God put you here as surely as He positioned the stars in the sky. This wasn’t frustration I could rebel against or fight. This was the frustration of hope. I could do nothing but surrender. So I did.
I’m sure it wasn’t the prettiest sight - me lying still on my bed-ocean, immobile, whispering into the morning waiting for God to whisper back, watching my hands to make sure they were real and in my periphery seeing frustration and anger swim around my feet, feeling them brush against my legs before they popped their heads up out beside me out of the water's mouth.
I wanted the water to swallow me, to drown me and pull me into itself, but my prayers were a lifejacket and my phone a whistle to signal to my friends the need for a buoy. I was supported. I could only float and let God whisper wisdom into me as the animal-shaped memories disappeared back into the deep and the slowing of the waves lulled me back into sleep. I woke up back on the shore. Not shipwrecked this time, but more sure. Freer. Two feet on the ground with a clearer mind. Slightly less frustrated, with an awareness of the decisions I had to make. Something on the internet made me laugh and I knew I was okay to start the day.
That morning taught me some important lessons. One was that healing hurts. I had this dream because I had started joint therapy a few weeks prior and the process of that was bringing up difficult memories and emotions - but those things can’t be avoided in the process of healing, only accepted and moved both through and with. The second thing was just simply that because healing hurts, it means committing at times to persist through things that challenge us, which means that some mornings will be hard.
Some mornings what you might need is to cry. To process a painful dream. To listen to worship, reach out to a friend, respond to a friend, reshape your priorities so that you can maintain the health of your soul. There's this sense in the world of mindfulness and recovery and healing that the process of growth looks peaceful and beautiful and gracious all the time, but sometimes being mindful of the present is hard because the present is hard. Sometimes being mindful of the present means being present with frustration and anger and feeling mocked by your dreams, your trauma, and feeling like your insides are burning - and not shutting that feeling down, not turning away from it indefinitely, but pacing yourself as you turn towards it and ultimately embrace it as part of the human experience. The morning reminded me that sometimes healing hurts, hoping hurts, and to believe something is possible and to pursue it without seeing it reflected in your everyday life hurts.
It reminded me of how important it is when pursuing healing or any kind of therapeutic process to have support, people you can turn to, and to have an awareness of your own emotional capacity - to pace yourself so that you can ride out the waves without drowning, because the one thing that is sure is that the waves of hurt will always come, and that’s okay, it’s part of the process. After the hurt waves of joy will always follow, even if they’re only small ripples created by silly memes on the internet. Waves of joy always follow.