Healing Is Not an End State

I’ve long associated healing with the culinary term ‘mise en place’ — ‘everything in its place’ or ‘to put everything in place.’ 

To heal, I needed to put all of the pieces of myself, or a particular part of myself, in place again. Until I’d done that, I couldn’t truly rest. Until I’d finished putting those pieces back where I’d found them, I couldn’t heal

I like finality. I like neatly wrapped endings. I like closing a carefully organized box, and putting it on a tediously organized shelf. But that’s simply not what healing is, is it? 

We’re all continuously healing, and what we need to heal is always changing. In therapy, I talk to many different ‘parts’ of myself. There’s the anger part, there’s the anxious part, there’s the judge. Each of these parts is a different age. Each part exists to serve a purpose.

To speak to each of those parts is to acknowledge them as valued and purposeful, but maybe not as necessary these days. My therapist regularly asks, ‘If this part were to stop serving its purpose right now, what would be the result?’ Most of the time, the answer is … ‘life would continue, and I would still be safe.’ 

What would you do with that extra energy, now that the part doesn’t need it anymore?’ she asks. My answers here vary but, usually, allowing that part to expend less energy on worrying, controlling, or pleasing allows more time for reading, cooking, accepting, and loving. 

These are the things that heal me right now. More time cultivating joy in my life and in the lives of my husband and son. Less time cultivating control and order. More time accepting that my 60-pound dog will likely try to lick your face off and sit on your lap at least five times during your first hour in my home. Less time feeling shame and guilt around imperfection. 

More time breathing through toddler tantrums and talking my son through what he’s feeling, why it’s alright, and how we can healthily channel those big two-year-old feels together. Less time trying to force growth that’s simply not going to happen overnight. 

More time realizing that there will absolutely never be a moment in my life when everything is in its place. And that even if I tried, those pieces of myself are always changing shape and form, and I’ll never be able to put them back together in quite the same configuration. 

That I’ll always be healing. 

Living our lives means continually gathering an assortment of scars and lessons. Healing, for me, is not giving up. Continuing to gather my pieces and appreciate them just as they are. 

So when I think through how I’ll heal from everything 2020 vomited into my (the collective our) lap, the answer is — by acknowledging the value that the parts of me served this year, and by letting some of those parts rest now.