Are You Really Broken?

When I was 24 I was diagnosed with cancer. From that moment on, my life took some turns I did not expect and could never have seen coming, some of them quite wonderful and some of them very scary, at the time. The cancer did disappear, and my life did get back on track. I even fell in love and married and fell pregnant. And while I was pregnant with our first child I was so thrilled I was breathless. I was filled with thoughts of how much love I could show a little person, who I was sure would grace my life. Then my world shattered and the very ground on which I stood was no longer safe. Within a matter of days, I found out that my husband (now ex) was having an affair; I lost my baby when I miscarried, and the cancer came back. I felt broken, in every way.

When things were going well I had my story, my personal fairy tale of how my life was going to play out. Life had never followed this personal fairy tale before but I wasn’t going to give up on a mere few decades of experience. In this moment of brokenness all seemed lost. But, I had begun anew time and again, and wasn’t about to give up. The fairy tale was most certainly eluding me, and yet, at this point of seeming no return I fell more powerfully under its spell than ever. Stumbling, as I was, under the burden of so many challenges, it was the fairy tale that gave me hope. Receiving praise for “what a little trooper!” I was, was part of that fairy tale. Yet something was different. No matter how hard I tried to pick up the pieces and carry on, I couldn’t continue.

This time the feeling of devastation was beyond the scope of most of my coping techniques. All the usual ways of numbing myself had fallen by the wayside. I wasn’t capable of working, had no appetite and didn’t have the strength to workout. Left with no choice but to feel, I felt. I felt broken, a brokenness beyond all recognition. Hardship wasn’t new to me but this feeling of complete decimation was. My psyche felt like little torn pieces of a paper napkin fluttering around aimlessly, ending up on the ground for all to stomp on. It felt like everyone and everything was stomping on me. Some people noticed what was happening to me, but mostly they didn’t notice, and fewer understood.

The more deeply the sense of giving up happened, the more I cried. And, gradually, without even realizing it at first, the tears began washing away all my expectations; washing away the fairy tale. The goal-oriented, power-hungry-need-to-achieve sense of strength was nowhere to be found; washed away in this seeming boot camp of surrender. All the plans for my life were gone. Standing at ground zero with a blank canvas seemed in one moment to be my worst nightmare. I went from waking up screaming the song of the victim “why me!” to landing in a place that was completely new and fresh. Something had happened. The unknown no longer held it’s terrifying hold on me. ”What was going to be?”, “What should be?”, “What must be?”, “How I want things to be!” seemed all to be washed away. Having found me, the unknown had freed me from the fairy tale’s spell and the idea of life having to play out in a certain scripted manner.

Possibilities found me.

The birth that I had ached for in the form of a new little human being had found me in a different way. Brokenness: a gift, creating room where I was sure none could possibly exist, it’s healing nature born through conflict and delivered by surrender.

What I was realizing was that, in the moments I felt most broken I wasn’t at all. I had arrived at a place of opportunity, a place where all possibilities abound. The irony is that when I thought all was lost life was wiping the slate clean to open up another way, even when I didn’t know I wanted one. Finding this place of possibility meant understanding that this brokenness had never been real. Nothing about me had ever been broken. Thank goodness.

Was I really ever broken?

In hindsight, I realize that I was likely not alone at all in my experience of brokenness, even thought it felt like the loneliest place on earth. I now realize that these turning points happen in many a life. Yet it occurred to me today to write my experience down just in case one of you reading it is in just such a lonely place.

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