There have been a few things I’ve wanted to write about, but haven’t done it because people might falsely assume I’m always positive or upbeat. A lot of the time I am but sometimes I’m not. I’ve always tried to be honest with you here and the last thing I want people to come away with is that you have to be smiling and thanking God for every bad thing that happens to you, no matter what. Sometimes life hurts – a lot. What I want to write about today is the tears.
The morning of the accident, I was contemplating a question someone sent me about disabilities. I was thinking about how hard it is when you look visibly different because people don’t give you a chance to show who you are. As this thought went through my mind, I realized I had never consciously been grateful that this wasn’t my challenge. Right that minute I said out loud, “Thank you God for giving me a normal face.”
I find my tendency towards premonitionary thoughts like this a bit unnerving (eg mid pregnancy repeatedly feeling Yirmiyahu would have T21, the highway accident I was almost in a few years ago). Why for the first time in forty years did I have this thought a few hours before my face was badly burnt? I’m positive the soul is whispering to us at these times but what I wonder is, why? Is it is a knowing something is going to happen, or a shadowy sense of warning that you’re slated for something to happen? Is it a fleeting opening to help you prepare for your new reality before your reality changes?
When I was in the ambulance, I kept whispering into the wet towel I had brought to keep on my face, ‘please God, give me my face’. And then I thought, ‘Maybe you don’t need this as part of your soul’s mission anymore and this isn’t what you should be asking for. What you need is to ask for in help accepting God’s will’. I swallowed hard, very hard – and thought, “Please Hashem, help me to accept whatever Your will is for me.” After a long pause I whispered, ‘And if it’s Your will, please give me back my face.’
I screamed twice when I was burnt, but I haven’t cried that much. There have been a few little times here and there but mostly whatever tears I felt welling up could be swallowed down.
But in the last couple of days I’ve had some intense waves of sadness come over me.
On Friday morning dd19, dd17 and ds15 came to visit me for the first time. My face was much better by then – every day is a visible difference – but I was worried how they were going to react when they saw me. I heard ds say, “Hi, Mommy” as they came into my room but before they saw me I covered my face and started crying. I couldn’t keep my face in my hands forever so I took my hands away as I stood up and hugged them, still crying. As I hugged Tehila (dd19) for the first time in over a year she asked me if I was crying from happiness or sadness and I said, ‘I don’t know’. It’s a mixture.
On Friday night I went to the nurses station to light Shabbos candles, feeling upbeat and cheerful. This was the first time I was able to venture this far from my room into the public domain – it’s about five or six steps away – but mentally letting myself be somewhere that someone who wasn’t on the medical staff would see me took a lot of courage. As I waved my hands in front of my eyes three times and opened my mouth to say the blessing, I started sobbing uncontrollably. It was like something cracked open inside of me.
I felt subdued as I began my Shabbos meal in my hospital room. As I sang Aishes Chayil/ A Woman of Valor, and got to the line ‘She is robed in strength and dignity, and she smiles at the future’ I faltered and couldn’t swallow the lump in my throat. I took a couple of deep breaths and my voice quavered but I continued, until I got to ‘Grace is elusive and beauty is vain’. I tried to sing this but broke down a few times before I could compose myself enough to finish the line - but a woman who fears God — she shall be praised.
After Shabbos was over I washed my face and thought how amazing it was how much better I’m doing. Until now I’ve only asked the staff how much longer I have to stay in the hospital and assumed that their answer meant I would be better by the time I left with a little residual pinkness that would fade in a very short time. When the nurse came in, I asked her how long it takes an injury like mine to heal. For the first time last night I had a sense that it could be much longer than what I’ve been telling myself. Despite that I wasn’t ready for her answer.
The nurse responded that I’ll have to stay out of the sun for the entire summer – and summer isn’t even officially here. The concern is about scarring. My eyes welled up with tears and I couldn’t answer her without a break in my voice. Another six months? I needed some time to process that. Last night I was very sad and I couldn’t sleep for a long time.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because it’s not good to say everything is fine and not acknowledge to yourself how you’re really feeling. Feeling your sadness and your anger and everything else we tend to not want to feel or see – and other people don’t want to see – is a critical part of coming to terms with your life and eventually having emotional peace.
This would be a much more upbeat post if I didn’t tell you all of this but one day you’re going to go through hard things and I want you to remember this – that you don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to smile and be grateful that something bad happened to you. You don’t have to assuage the anxiety of those around you who are much more comfortable with you smiling and being positive than with your raw emotions.
Feelings come in waves…you have to be willing to feel them when they come even if they threaten to engulf you. Eventually the waves subside. The waves will keep coming but each time it will get a little easier. A storm doesn’t last forever and our tears are a tool to help us through the storm.