The river of healing

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

woman standing in a flowing river in a red dress
Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay

When it comes to the common cold, my dad always says that you can count on feeling better after about two weeks on your own or in about 14 days if you go to the doctor.

There are plenty of ways to help ease the symptoms and make it more bearable while it lasts, but it just takes time for our bodies to deal with the virus and get us back to feeling healthy. There's plenty we can do to slow the process down by refusing to rest and take care of ourselves, but there's not much we can do to speed it up.

The common cold isn't all that this applies to.

Healing in general seems to be one of those things that happens at its own pace with time, and that's as true for emotional healing as it is for any physical recovery.

In February I finally cut back to only one (very sporadic) part-time job in addition to my full-time work on my own business. I had huge plans for all the things I was going to accomplish with the extra time as soon as I did this.

I planned to give myself a couple of weeks to relax a little bit, and then get right back to my usual high-powered work schedule with lots of hours and nonstop work. I'd just finally be able to focus all that work (mostly) on my own business. It was going to be amazing!

I knew I was exhausted, but I was sure that just a couple of weeks would get me right back to normal. It didn't happen. Once I stopped, all of the exhaustion I'd been ignoring and pushing myself to just keep working through for months and years finally caught up with me like I'd run into a brick wall.

I've been able to keep things going and even do a few of the things on my list, but mostly my body and my mind has insisted on extra time to rest and recover from pushing too hard for too long.

It hasn't mattered how hard I've tried to push myself or how many guilt trips I've tried to play on myself or what my to-do list said I should be accomplishing. All of my mental, emotional, and physical energy has been in hibernation, and there's nothing I've been able to do to speed that recovery along.

It's been six months now, and I'm finally feeling the stirrings of normal energy levels and motivation beginning to return. I'm beginning to see signs of wanting to reconnect more with people. I'm starting to make progress on that (longer than ever) to-do list. I'm even noticing fresh enthusiasm and energy emerging for new ideas and possibilities.

In the grand scheme of things, recovering from too many years of pushing myself way too hard is a small thing—much like the recovery from a common cold is a small thing when it comes to physical ailments. And yet, in both cases, it simply takes as long as it takes.

How much more true that is for the bigger recoveries in life! Healing from life's broken places always seems to take longer than we think it should.

I've learned to think of healing as being a bit like the flow of a river. It flows at its own pace—sometimes a bit faster, sometimes almost at a standstill, sometimes even in what feels like a bit of a whirlpool spinning me back around.

I can put all kinds of obstacles and obstructions in the path of the river that slow its flow and make its path less smooth, but there's nothing I can do to push the river to flow faster.

My job in the healing process is do everything I can to remove as many of the obstacles as I can, not add any new ones, and to otherwise trust the flow of the river to take me where I need to go at its own pace.

There are plenty of things I can do to help ease the symptoms along the way and to get help with removing obstacles (like therapy or meditation or journaling), but as much as those things help, healing still goes as its own pace.

There is no pushing the river. I can only focus on staying in the river and not jamming up its flow in any way.

Knowing this truth (from past experience) has made the last six months so much easier to handle. It's helped me, even in this relatively small recovery, to have patience with myself and the process. There was clearly much more beneath the surface that needed some healing and recovery than I imagined.

I've just kept making sure I stayed in the river, continued moving obstacles out of the path when I found them, treated the symptoms (like exhaustion) with extra rest and care, and otherwise just kept reminding myself to trust the process.

It's working. Slowly but surely, it's working. It always does.

How well does this image of healing a river fit with your experience?

In what ways have you tried to push the river to flow faster in your own healing process? What effect has that had?

What activities help you move the obstacles out of the way of the river's flow? What obstacles are currently slowing things down? How might you address those?

How patient are you with healing process? Do you trust it? What might it be like to trust it more fully?

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