I flung myself off of the mountain months ago.
Maybe I didn’t fling, maybe I was pushed, maybe I tripped. I don’t exactly know how I ended up in a free fall, but I know that about a year ago, I ended up free falling, and not in the cute Tom Petty kind of way.
People are watching us, my husband and I. People are worried, because cancer is worrisome. People keep and eye on Andrew, on his symptoms, on any progression. People also seem to keep their eye on me, my symptoms, my progression. Truthfully, sometimes people in his position and in my position break eventually.
And then there is hospice. Hospice has their opinions, and we have our own. That’s always an interesting dilemma.
Hospice, and so much of the world, they see a free fall, our free fall, and they fear for that rocky bottom. I mean, every mountain ledge has a floor beneath it, right? Basic physics tells us that everything that flings off, or falls off, or is pushed off a mountain must eventually hit that bottom.
Rock bottom, they call it.
The fear isn’t just that we will hit it- that’s inevitable. The real fear is of the damage that will occur when we hit it. The fear is that every bone in our bodies will shatter, every dream in our hearts along with them.
We all fear rock bottom. We fear it for ourselves, and for our loved ones. We even tend to fear it for the people we are just paid to take care of. Rock bottom is scary. But it’s really the only destination for someone in our position, someone forced to free fall.
Sure, some think that people who are shoved off of a mountain can sprout wings and fly, but really that’s just a joyful anecdote. No one can actually sprout wings. No one can actually fly without proper preparation. No one can flail their arms in desperation, then leap off the thin air, make a leap while falling and then open into their flight.
To fly takes a leap. And a leap takes solid ground. And when you’re free falling, the only solid ground left is that rocky and ridgy plot of land making its way toward you at a fatal speed.
But what many don’t know is that some people can and do survive the crash. Some people can and do hit that ground, lick their wounds, plant their feet, and take off again- flying this time, not free falling.
People think their watching my free fall. People think they’re watching my disastrous descent toward the ground, and they stand in fear knowing that the impact will be huge, painful, fatal.
Rest assured, everyone. The truth is, I hit rock bottom months ago.
That’s what a lot of people don’t know about the free fall. It isn’t just this organized descent. This isn’t skydiving. There is no parachute on your back to pull when you’re done feeling crazy and want to ease gently toward the ground.
This is free falling, and this wasn’t a choice. The wind is loud, and your own thoughts are louder. The ground is hard and approaching, but your vision is blurred, and when you hit that ground, when you crash, shatter, you don’t always know.
Crazy right? How can everything break, and you have no clue?
The problem is… we watch too much tv.
On the tv, there is always a clear moment of rock bottom. It’s that scene where they break down in the grocery store, or crash the car running a red light. It’s a clear, definable moment of change, shift, breaking. That’s what we’re comfortable with, a perfect mountain metaphor. Climb, peak, descend. The end.
It’s just not reality.
In reality, that rock bottom moment happens a million times. When you near that bottom, hit that bottom, the world becomes chaos. It is rarely just one big moment of “I have arrived. Time to rise again.” It’s not just one breakdown in a grocery store. It’s about ten of them. It’s crying to the nice lady who only wants to sell you a new bed. It’s telling the cashier at Trader Joe’s that life has exhausted you, and you intend to eat the entire cake by yourself in bed. It’s throwing your favorite mug at the ground in anger, and then sobbing because you shattered your favorite mug.
I don’t know when I hit rock bottom. I just know that I have, and somehow I lived, and somehow, I continue to drill into the stone. I break more bones each day, even as some are repaired. Some get repaired only to break again. It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress.
This is grief. This is pain. This is faith.
Yes, faith. I needed to be broken. I needed every inch of me to be poured out, because a year ago I was half the person I am today, and I can only imagine who I will be in another year.
It’s like working out. Sometimes, you have to break to be rebuilt. You can’t just pile muscle on a muscle. You have to break down the muscle so that it can rebuild better, stronger.
I needed to break. I couldn’t just pile wisdom on wisdom. I couldn’t just pile faith on faith. I had to start all over, no matter how much I didn’t want to. No matter how many times I pleaded in that fall to sprout wings and avoid that hard, cold, floor below me.
Sometimes in order to grow, we have to break.
So maybe next time you are in that free fall, the next time your life is in turmoil, and you know the ground is fast approaching, and you have nothing on your back to ease you to the ground– maybe you shouldn’t pray for God to spare you.
Maybe you shouldn’t pray for a gentle descent.
Maybe you should pray for the breaking.
Pray that it be productive.
Pray that the parts of you that break are the parts that He was needing to restore, rebuild, anyways.