Saturday, April 22, 2023

Broken

 

A brilliant Yellow Swallowtail landed on my leg today as we sat outside on our back patio. It was such a special moment and I was extremely still for fear of interrupting its landing. At first glance, I thought it was a perfect butterfly but as I looked closer, I noticed one of its wings was broken and that made me extremely sad. 

I wondered how the wing had been compromised. Had the butterfly brushed against something rough that had caught and torn the wing or had a pair of eager little hands tried to catch it and in desperation of keeping its freedom, the butterfly had sacrificed part of its wing as it got away. 

The butterfly stay for several minutes before lifting off and gently soaring on the breeze. As it left, I felt my wounded heart cry out, "You're still broken, too."Though I didn't want to admit it, I knew it was true. 

I'd been broken for almost 9 years, since the diagnosis of my breast cancer. Though I'd had months of deep despair, I'd also experienced moments of sheer joy at still being alive and being able to do the things I wanted to do, but I wasn't ever going to be the same again. That realization wounded me deeply.

Today, without realizing he'd done it, my husband said something very hurtful to me. He'd meant it in teasing but the words pierced my heart and made me feel less than. Those words reminded me of my brokenness and I began to sob. When he realized he'd hurt me, he instantly came to my side asking for forgiveness but the words had already accomplished their goal. It was my choice whether or not I would hold on to them or release them. 

I wanted to instantly release them but something deep inside cried out. I thought, by now, I was completely over the trauma of breast cancer, but apparently I wasn't. I wondered if I'd ever feel normal again or at least feel worthy of love again. 

That butterfly, though it had a broken wing, chose to continue to fly. If it hadn't continued on, it would have died without sustenance. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had to choose to continue on, too. 

I've been trying to learn to thrive for several years now, but it's been hard. The dictionary defines the word thrive in this way: "to prosper, to flourish." I wasn't doing that. I was merely existing. I went from one mundane day to the next trying to fill my time with things to occupy my mind like art projects or writing. When I wasn't doing one of those things, I was cleaning. My house was always immaculate. Though those things kept me busy, they didn't fill my heart with joy. I needed joy. 

I realized, along with feeling broken, I was lonely. I had no friends here and all of my family lived at least an hour away. Rarely did I see anyone other than medical staff or my husband. I needed more. 

Social media helped a little. As I perused my account, I enjoyed learning what my "long distance" friends were up to. It felt like I had a connection although it wasn't really true. 

I'm not the type of person to get down in the dumps often but for the past couple of years I think I've struggled with depression. Oh, it's been mild but it's been there and I haven't liked it one bit. 

If I'd been smart, I would have taken my oncologist up on meeting with a cognitive behavioral specialist, but I was too embarrassed to admit my need. I was also afraid of admitting I was struggling with feelings of unworthiness. 

My faith in God has been my saving grace. Whenever I've felt smothered in my feelings, He's always  been there to remind me who I am and whose I am. Without him, I'm sure I would have already given up. Thankfully, His Word speaks to my heart daily. 

I've had to remind myself over and over again that feelings aren't fact. Though I feel broken and less than, I'm still His precious child. And He chose the trial of breast cancer for me. Knowing that gives me peace, not because I was made to suffer through the trauma of having my body maimed, but knowing no matter what, He'd promised never to leave or forsake me. 

The butterfly with the broken wing was a special gift. I think God allowed it to land on my leg for a reason- to remind me life is still possible even with a broken body. 

I still have a lot of internal healing to do and I'm working on myself daily. I've learned to use positive self talk to help remind me I matter, but more than that, as I've struggled, I've looked for Scriptures that get me back on track. 

I doubt if all women who go through breast cancer struggle with body image like I have but many do. It's hard to explain how damaging losing body parts can be to a person's self worth, especially when those body parts are the essence of their femininity. 

One day, I'm hoping to see myself healed and whole. Until then, I'll keep on working through things one day at a time. And one day, perhaps I'll fly.

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