Healing is Work
Updated: Jan 4, 2020
Healing is Work
Almost a year ago, as one of many steps in my personal healing journey, I found myself in the farthest back corner of Chapters. Past the best sellers, romance section, and recipe books was the shelf dedicated to “Self-help” books. I didn’t entirely know what I was looking for, all that I knew, was I was looking for something. After reading the back covers of copies like “The Key to Finding Happiness”, “How to Take Control”, and “Mindfulness For Everyone”, I came across Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything. Huh. The act of forgiving sounded like something I needed to do, but dedicating an hour every day for 21 days just to forgiving?
I reread the back of the book a few times, skimmed through chapters, and debated and debated if it would be worth the $22.50 it cost me. In the end, I was convinced enough to give it a try – though to be honest, I think the selling point was the fact it was a forgiveness manual created by a woman of colour, and that had to mean something. So off I went, with my forgiveness manual in one hand and the Dalai Llama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Joy in the other.
As a society we are at this point in time where “reconciliation”, “destigmatizing mental health”, “trauma-informed” and “self-care” have become buzzwords for progressive change and public dialogues around mending colonial histories and creating more supportive work policies. For those who don’t struggle with the realities of colonial trauma, daily microaggressions and mental health issues though, these buzzwords are merely topics of debate and consideration. Not to mention, the trendiness that is now associated with acts of “self-care”, also known as bubble baths, a bottle of “Girls Night In”, or a good novel. Now don’t get me wrong, indulging in a bubble bath and taking time out for myself to read my favourite novel is great self-care, but frankly, for those of us whose reality these buzzwords imply, a Lush bathbomb in no way addresses the deep layered healing that so many of us need. We need to stop romanticizing, and dig deep with authentic vulnerability and compassion.
Healing. What the hell does that even mean? Is it even possible? What does healing look like in a society where an ongoing colonial legacy, a lack of mental health access and support , and -isms are reality?
I’m no expert on healing, nor do I have the right to define what healing looks like for others, but, I can honestly say that I have been able to make it to a place in my healing journey where I feel less bitter, more open, and more at home within myself than I ever have. And I think that is how I would like to define healing: feeling at home within myself.
This healing journey I speak of than, means making my way home, to myself, and finding comfort within, despite everything I have been through. There is a catch though, which is: making the journey home isn’t easy. In fact, it is hard, and it is work. Healing is work. Just like my great grandfather had to travel thousands of miles by foot away from his family, in subarctic weather conditions just to harvest food, and do everything he could to stay alive, so that he could return home – healing is work. Just as my great grandfather had the choice to starve or stay alive, I had the choice to continue on a path full of loneliness, anger, hurt and self-contempt, or to put in the work so I could return home to live the life full of love, joy and content I wanted. And I so desperately wanted to break the cycles and overcome the hurt I witnessed in my family and experienced within myself and my relationships.
So I made a choice, and I started to put in the work. I discovered what healing meant and looked like for me. And although it does include self-care in the form of an occasional bath and frequent overpriced latte (because damn-right I deserve it), it includes so, so much more. In fact, it’s pretty scary and daunting.
-Being honest with yourself
-Looking at yourself in the mirror, day after day, and saying “I love you” until you start to believe it
-Asking for help when all you’ve known is going at it alone
-Unlearning everything you know to be inherent and true, and learning new habits
-Staying up late to do that chapter in your forgiveness workbook even though you’re tired and don’t want to
-Forgiving yourself when you’re just too tired
-Letting yourself cry yourself to sleep
-Letting yourself feel the feelings you don’t want to feel – sinking into the heart searing sadness and anger and loss, so that you can begin to let go of it
-Looking your weaknesses and shortfalls directly in the face, and mustering up the courage to tell them that you are more than them, despite any regret
-Taking down that wall you’ve built for so long, slowly, brick by brick, and beginning to expose the vulnerable and authentic parts of yourself you’ve been hiding
-Deciding for yourself that trust is something worth believing in, and not limiting its worth to the every. other. time. its been broken for you
-Finding trust, in yourself, first
-Listening to the ones you love tell you how your actions have impacted them, and not acting in defense
-Opening boxes of locked up mistakes in order to reflect on them, and not throwing away the key when they scare you
-Doing the complete opposite of what you’ve been conditioned to do
-Thinking you’ve learned, and then tripping, and then getting up to try again
-Saying “I’m sorry”
-Genuinely accepting apologies, and understanding where others are coming from
-Not being sorry or apologetic for what you need, at that moment
-Listening to other people’s insights of you without shutting down or deflecting
-Screaming into pillows, in cars, at rivers, just to let it out
-Taking the time to read, to gain better understanding about yourself and your process
-Going back home, to confront the people/places/past you ran from
-Finding ways to let go, letting go, and accepting the move forward
-Practicing saying “no” alone in your room
-Calling yourself out and holding yourself accountable
-Being open to your triggers, respecting them, and letting others in on them so they can respect them too
-Sitting still and quiet when all you want to do is distract
-Cutting people who you love out of your life when their energy is toxic to you
-Going out of your way to connect with culture and family
-Finding people who support your journey and can heal beside you
-Practicing gratitude and compassion
-Getting down on your knees, picking up those pieces, and making sense of them, for you, and no one else
Healing is this, and so much more.
I think it’s also important to note that the journey of healing is not linear, nor is it perfect. We fall and we mess up. But that act of hard work requires commitment, and with each fall, it is standing up again which makes us even stronger. And who better to commit to than yourself? Our ancestors never gave up, and neither should we. The journey of healing, much like the act of traditional survival, is dependent on the belief that we can make it, and that we have the strength of ourselves as well as the strengths of others, to ensure we make it. And to continue making it, so long as we are fed – whether our body, heart, mind or soul.
Like most things that are worth having, that we so desperately want in life, well, they take time and effort. The reality is, it rarely takes 21 days to forgive everyone for everything, but committing to the forgiveness process is that first step. Although there were some things about the self-help book I bought at Chapters that day which did not work for me, there were other parts of it that did. So, I took what was helpful for me, and committed to the process. The process did not take 21 days, it took 7 months, but I stuck with it. I did grow, and yes, heal, from the process, but, it didn’t stop there. That forgiveness process was only one small piece of this lifelong healing journey. A journey I can proudly say I will continue on, from the comfort of home.
A home rebuilt from ground up.
A home where I feel grounded, sureness, gratitude, love, joy, confidence, and peace.
A home so sturdy that nothing can tear it down. Though if for some reason anything does, I will pick up the pieces and rebuild it again.