It is entirely possible to go through life bleeding and unaware. I learned this once on a jog through my old neighborhood with the historic homes and the winding road with the steep incline. Seven years had passed since I last saw the house that held so many memories that were dear to my heart. Memories of finding Spiderman in the fish tank, curiously placed there by my two-year-old with his sandy colored hair and heart full of wonder. Or the time Nibbles, our hamster, got loose and barely escaped death when we found him burrowed in the corner of the basement step, luckily before the cat did. I loved that house. I loved the memories of my children that filled it. I loved the dining room painted Sweet Annie green. I loved the long fireplace mantle I would decorate at Christmas and the ceiling to floor length windows that flooded the house with light.
But what I loved most was the memory of my life before it was marred by tragedy and trauma.
I returned home from my run that day surprised to see a stain of blood on my sock. I didn't feel any pain during my jog and had no idea I was bleeding. It wasn't anything major, and I certainly wouldn't die from it, but the consuming pain I felt in my heart was another matter altogether. Looking back, it wasn't just at this moment. It was always there lurking in the background. Like a cloud that followed me around just waiting to storm. Like a smile that feels foreign. Like a black hole waiting to swallow me whole that I kept my distance from just to be safe. I was bleeding in the recesses of my soul and not just a slow trickle. It was a hemorrhage that left me anemic and unwell. I was walking through life with a bandaid covering a bullet wound, and I had no idea how to make the bleeding stop.
One of my favorite quotes by Norman Cousins says, "The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside of us while we live."
What we let die inside of us while we live.
I see it all around me, I guess because pain recognizes pain. People who are bleeding from past wounds and aren't even aware. Like toilet paper stuck to your shoe or a coffee stain spilled on your shirt that you may be unaware of. Only with a greater consequence, affecting the people closest to you who see it and suffer the aftermath. The bleeding of being unable to trust, or waiting for the sky to fall because your pain has taught you that it always does. Or bitterness that sucks the air and all happiness out of the room. Or like anger that simmers beneath the surface waiting for the opportune moment to pay revenge on every person who hurt you in the past.
Learning to stop the bleed is a process and not an easy one, I must say. It means that I first acknowledge that I am still bleeding. It means that I recognize that I can never go back to the day before my said event. Never. And it's okay. It's okay because I am not defined by the worst thing that I've ever done or the worst thing that's ever happened to me. It's okay because God is able to redeem the most broken and scattered pieces of my life if I am willing to hand him the pieces. But I must be willing.
So I learn to sit in the same room with it and not feel like I might die from the pain. I learn to carry it with me and not stumble from the weight of it. I learn to eventually talk about it with other people and share what I know to be true on this side of tragedy and heartbreak.
You don't have to just exist among the living. You can choose to live, and give yourself permission to stop bleeding.