It is entirely possible to go through life bleeding and unaware. I learned this once on a jog through my old neighborhood. 7 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 2 year old. Or the time Nibbles, our hamster, got loose and we found him burrowed in the corner of the steps…luckily before the cat did. I loved that house. I loved the memories of my children that filled it. 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 in 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, you may be unaware of it, but the people closest to you see it and feel the aftermath. The bleeding of being unable to trust, or waiting for the sky to fall because your past has taught you that it always does. Bitterness that sucks the air out of the room or anger that simmers beneath the surface waiting for the opportune moment.
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 acknowledge 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.
And I don't have to just exist among the living. I can choose to live and I can give myself permission to stop bleeding.