This post first appeared as one in a series of regular columns in The Finger Lakes Times.
What heals us? I don’t mean what cures us, but rather, what heals us?
Healing is that thing, whatever it is, that allows us to live fully whether or not we are enduring pain, struggle or grief. It may not take away the wound, illness or hurt but it allows us to love with a fullness of heart and live with a fullness of hope. Healing imbues us with a rich, thick topsoil of gratitude that hosts and permeates hopefulness no matter how severe the season we are living through.
I have known people who were in the process of dying, struggling through the loss of physical vitality and experiencing pain, who were still more buoyant and vibrant than other people I know in the peak of health and with copious resources. Two people can look at the same challenges and opportunities and one will see abundance where the other sees scarcity. The capacity to see abundance is a symptom of healing.
We all have wounds. All of us are broken in one or more ways. None of us makes it out of childhood without a scar or two or five. Later in life we suffer betrayal, loss, failure, even abuse. Some people incorporate all of that experience into wisdom while others suck on a straw of resentment. Healing is that thing that makes the difference.
Openness to healing is like flexibility, learned and practiced rather than innate and only given to some. For example, some of us are more physically flexible than others, but all of us can increase our flexibility by stretching, exercise, and intentional effort. Openness to healing is the same way. Some of us may be more naturally open to life, learning and risk-taking than others, but all of us can engage in practices that stretch and strengthen our ability to be open.
Courting change is one of those ways to practice openness. Practicing change is good therapy.
My dad was 93 when he died and had never used an ATM card even though they had been around for a generation. As his peers died he didn’t make new friends and became more solitary. My mother-in-law is approaching 90 and emails her grandchildren near and far. My dad did not practice change and in fact became less and less flexible, physically and in every other way. In contrast, my mother-in-law has pushed and been pushed against the limits of life and has been rewarded by falling in love in her 80s and receiving a whole new life that would have otherwise eluded her.
We can actually practice change instead of being its victim. It will help us become more open if we do. Our temptation is to preserve what we know and circle the wagons to protect it, but as is so often true in life, our instinct is just the opposite of what we need to do.
Healing is no accident. It is a reward for openness — not as in reward and punishment administered from on high, but as a simple cause and effect. The more open we are the more healing we will encounter. They are an intimate couple, and we can do things to practice openness and so increase our opportunities for healing.
Practice change. Become more open. Experience healing.