So many people have probably passed by this piece of driftwood since it washed up on the beach, myself included. But today it drew me in closer.
It was so twisted and turned, so dark and bruised. You could see where bits had broken off, where the swell of the water had knocked it about, dragged it down and thrown it up again. Once upon a time it probably stood strong and tall, weathering the elements. Now it lies pocked and marked, even a little bit ruined.
Standing and staring at this piece of driftwood as it was framed by the rain clouds rolling in ever closer it brought to mind a line from one of my favourite songs at the moment, ‘Desert Song’ by Hillsong:
‘Refine me Lord through the flames.’
This time last year I was receiving the worst possible news. I was lying on a hospital bed, gazing at the grey tiled ceiling, staring at the too bright lights until my eyes began to sting, whilst an ultrasound technician searched for my baby’s heartbeat. Willing her voice to break into the lengthening silence, to tell me that everything was actually alright. That it had been a small hiccup and I wasn’t facing the heartbreak of a miscarriage. It was a point in my life, during that year, when I honestly thought I had dealt with it all…but I had no idea of what was to come.
Prior to last year I would always have described myself as a strong person. It’s something I would have confessed to proudly, with a tilt of my chin and maybe a flash of defiance in my eyes. ‘Go on…’ my look would have said, ‘challenge me on it and I’ll show you.’ I was like the piece of driftwood before; standing tall with my roots sturdy and holding me in place. Confident that I could weather the storm.
But then in an instant I became broken.
My health, my marriage, my family, my finances, my children…all of it damaged in some way. Every foundation I had built was cracking and crumbling around me.
As a person who likes to come across as though they have it altogether, someone who is always on top, always in control…it felt like my life was ricocheting from one disaster to the next.
I had become adrift, twisting and turning, battered and bruised. I clung hard to my faith because there was nothing else I could do. It was the only thing I had left to hold to.
‘They’ (whoever those wise people are who fall under this umbrella…) say that time is a great healer, and although I agree, I think this is partly because with time comes perspective and with perspective comes understanding.
I don’t know whether I have reached a point of fully understanding yet but I can tell you the point it started to get better. It was a random telephone conversation with someone, during the point when my health was at its lowest and I was being referred from pillar to post…I was talking to this person and all they did was affirm that it was okay. They probably didn’t even think twice about saying those words but just as 8 months before I had felt something snap, now I felt something bind.
Just two simple words. ‘It’s okay.’
The problem for me was that as well as trying to recover from all the hits we had taken throughout the year, I was constantly giving myself a hard time because I felt as though it was somehow my fault. I hadn’t been in control enough, I had let something slide, I hadn’t been on the ball and now everything was in tatters. I was blaming myself for all the different disasters which had occurred, berating myself daily for not being enough.
Perhaps it is only when you hit the bottom, the real solid hard rock bottom, when your only option is to look up that you begin to realise what is important. Those two words forced me to let go of my preconceptions about how my life should be. Clearly I didn’t have it altogether in the way I had always imagined but that was okay. Clearly my life was a cordoned off disaster zone but it was going to be okay.
Gradually I peeled open my eyes and saw that although I hadn’t come through unscathed, for the most part I was floating once again on calmer waters.
Now one year on and I can look around and see that I am an altogether different person. I am so, so far from where I was last year, so different from the person I was 18 months ago and beyond.
I know that like my piece of driftwood, I haven’t emerged from the stormy seas unmarked. There are dinks and dents, pieces have been broken off and what is left is raw and in some places a bit jagged. But in the right context, in the right eyes, in my eyes, I am strong and significant. Peel back the outer layer which may look a bit rough and ready, and there is life. This is not the end of my story.
As I stood and reflected by the piece of upturned driftwood today, staring out at the sea (which unfortunately in Southport is much further away than I might secretly wish…) I reflected how grateful I am that I have people who have loved and supported me during the last 12 months, people who didn’t always know me but have offered kind words, thoughts and prayers. Even when they didn’t necessarily realise they were doing it.
I reflected that I am closer to becoming the person I want to be; I am healthier, happier and more whole and whilst I know that it won’t necessarily be the last time something goes wrong in life, I hope that for right now we can enjoy this season of contentment and calm.
I would not wish that anyone would have the same experiences as me, but I know that I am not alone in facing struggles, however they might be presented. And I wanted this post to stand as an encouragement for anyone who feels as though they are walking through the mire, that they look around and think, ‘can this really get any worse?’ that in fact it will get better. You will learn and you will grow and you will come out stronger on the other side.
This doesn’t have to be the end of your story.