Rawness is hard and tender.
There is a draw, a pull to stare and at the same time, a compulsion to avert the eyes and look away,
because how can you look at something so unbearably chaffed and not try to alleviate the discomfort, to help heal the wound, to apply a sweet balm and make all the coarseness go away? Either you must try to forget it or do something to help. So, we try:
“you will get through this.”
“things will get better”
“just give it time”
“don’t give up hope”
but what about when the rubbing doesn’t stop and months and years go by and you are still living with the rawness, reliving the crude spikes of tenderness, like waves splashing over and over against the cliffside, taking away a little bit more and more and more, barely noticeable, but then, one day, it all splits and crashes into the sea.
And you swear you hear the waves roaring with laughter at another bit of you worn down and snuffed out. A fresh new side now exposed to begin the process again, and you’re not sure how much more you can take before there is nothing left of you at all.
You ask yourself all the what ifs and feel the rubbing and the burning feeling again. What if I had said something different? What if they hadn’t left? What if this pain had never come? What if I had reacted differently? What if I had been more? Less?
There are always what ifs – past, present, upcoming.
What ifs don’t solve anything, though.
They don’t patch up tears in our hearts or seal lost moments away for us to forget about. We ask them, even though we know we can’t change the past. We open up the wound again and again, picking at the scab until we finally decide we really shouldn’t be doing that and pull our sleeve back over it, hoping for no infection.
At some point, we need to stop asking “what if” and begin to ask, “what now“.
What now provides a path to healing and real change. It invites us to lift our chin a little and brush off the dirt and step toward a new path. We can look at our past choices and acknowledge what has happened, allowing our life to be seen for what it is, and then turn, steadily, little by little, and move – somewhere.
What now involves us in the present.
Instead of being focused on the past or the distant future, what now asks us to look at what is right in front of us and determine what good thing there is to do next.
A simple question and practice and one that helps tremendously when we are trying to be mindful and at peace with what is going on around us on any given day. It helps keep us focused on goodness and love, on slowing down and taking care of others and ourselves.
It requires sacrifice and an openness and awareness of new opportunities that might present themselves.
And it is so freeing.