Open Heart Surgery

Today’s post marks a bonus chapter in my “Lorraine has Fallen”series centering around a fictional character in a contrived scenario while he tries to cope with life’s disappointments. The following post & eventual future posts are in no way autobiographical & the scenarios discussed simply create a backdrop for reflection on general topics like processing grief & remaining motivated through adversity.

“How big will the scar be?” I asked tentatively. A surgeon had come into the room earlier to go over my post surgical life expectations. He made it seem as though this surgery was a good thing; as if I would feel like a better man & live a better life once it was all over –provided it wasn’t all over during the procedure! But for a moment, I got a glimpse of what it was I was working towards; a life without the constant pain & the struggles to achieve routine tasks. Oh, there would be pain, of course; but it would be pain that I could get through. It would be pain that wouldn’t kill me. So I took this opportunity to escape all the morbid thoughts & imagine myself down the road: post-surgery, post-rehabilitation, perfectly functional. “So how about the scar?” I posed my question again, this time not to a surgeon but to a barely out-of-college slender blonde who had come in to assess the blood vessels in my neck. She had just commented on how strong I appeared to look–relatively at least–& how the blood vessels in my neck seemed robust. “You should be fine during surgery,” she said in a comforting fashion. “Oh, and as far as the scars–chicks dig scars, so you don’t have to worry.” She winked at me as she made her way out of the room pushing her cart of equipment. Oddly, this informal, conversational interaction I had with this college girl had comforted me more than all the surgeons & nurse practitioners & cardiologists with all of their medical jargon & statistics. If I have a 99% chance of survival, that meant I had a chance of dying too. I just wanted the numbers thrown out. I just wanted an image of what my life would be life; what I would be like–afterwards. I needed to know what it was I was suffering so much for in the present to achieve in the future.

I ran into Lorraine unexpectedly this past week. A reasonable amount of time had elapsed since I had last seen her. I still remembered a time when we were friends–sort of, at least. There was a time when she would always at least greet me, as shy as she was. There were a handful of times when she smiled & actually beamed with enthusiasm to see me; but there was never any time in the three years I had known her when she would be rude . . . until she met him.

Anyway, when I saw her, I froze momentarily. It was like hiking in the woods of an area known for black bear. You realize that you are entering their territory. You realize there’s a possibility you can run into one; but your experience & everyone else tells you there’s a 99% chance you won’t see one! So you really don’t prepare yourself for a bear encounter; & when you do happen to see one, you freeze just like I did when I saw Lorraine post-fall from grace. You see why I hate percentages now?

I wondered if enough time had gone by. I wondered if she still hated me or if it simply the temporary condition of anger that prompted her coolness towards me following The Debacle. I looked up tentatively, looking for cues. I wasn’t going to make the first move, but if she chose to speak to me, I wouldn’t turn her away. So I watched for a clue to determine her intention as she walked towards me . . . and then walked straight past without breaking her stride, without so much as blinking in my direction. “Okay,” I thought. “I guess she still hates me.”

While looking back on the months following Lorraine’s expulsion from Eden, I recognized the pattern of a painful process from injury to healing. In the immediate aftermath, I felt absolute disgust. I literally went home & threw up, hoping to purge the image of seeing sweet Lorraine & hedonistic “Bad Boy” together in an area where they shouldn’t have been. Then my heart went dark. It was easier to hate him than to hate her, so my warrior spirit erupted in a turbulent volcano of rage. And I wanted to hold Mr. “Bad Boy” to account for his sin–for his sin against Lorraine; for his sin against Nature; for his sin against God; & most of all, for his sin against ME! Ultimately, I would decide on a more gentle approach to resolution. All the same, my blood once boiled to the point of a Biblical Plague! And then, I tried to hate her. Lorraine, the source of my most tender sentiments; the standard for lovable in my lexicon. I tried to hate her; but I couldn’t manage to maintain such negative feelings towards her for more than a few days at a time. Then I progressed to lamenting & finally to a place that approached the path to healing. This process took months to accomplish in real time, but somehow, when I ran into Lorraine & recognized that she was emotionally unchanged towards me, I went through that exact same cycle in the span of about ninety seconds. And that wouldn’t be the last time I’d have to run through that same cycle of emotions from disappointment to anger to despondence to peace even in that same day!

I heard this a long time ago, & experience has told me it’s true. Healing isn’t a linear process. It’s not a point A to point B proposition. It’s a point A to point B process in the beginning but then there’s the, “Great job! Now go do it again!” The process of healing isn’t linear; it’s a series of linear tasks that we must perform over & over again until we don’t have to anymore. It’s like recharging your smart phone. You run it down to “Critical Low” & then wind it back up to 100% at night. But that’s not the end of it. Chances are, the next day, you’ll have to perform the exact same process.

It may sound tedious but it’s just how things work. I’ve struggled with riddles of the heart just like this situation with Lorraine throughout my entire life. And it seems as if God is giving me numerous opportunities to achieve a breakthrough. God won’t accept that I just can’t do it; He won’t accept failure on this task, but rather demands that I work through the pain in order to achieve some lesson that I failed the grasp the previous time around. It’s a scenario akin to experiencing numerous reincarnations all within a single biological lifetime. It’s as though, emotionally, I’ve died & have been reborn to master the task that I failed to complete the previous time around. Drowning the pain away in alcohol, or writing her off as a lost cause, or teaching myself to hate her . . . those all ways I’ve addressed this same problem before. Those tactics, however, failed to achieve resolution, otherwise I wouldn’t have found myself right back where I always am.

So this time around, forget the pain. forget the discomfort, forget the indignation. I don’t mean ignore them, but just understand these thorns in my side will be along for the journey. I heard a wise man once say: “Peace isn’t the absence of conflict; but the acceptance of it.” Four years ago, I found myself undergoing open heart surgery & the humbling rehabilitation process that followed at a young age. I felt vulnerable & uncertain most of the way through. But I endured the suffering that shadowed each step to healing because I knew what it was that I was working towards. The pain I feel over Lorraine is the same thing. She broke my heart; & I’ve undergone emotional open heart surgery. Now, I’m struggling with the rehabilitation process.

I knew I had come all the way back from my physical heart surgery one day in the gym when an ex-military tough guy approached me & stated, “Dude. That’s one hell of a scar you’ve got there!”

“Yeah,” I replied. And then I thought to myself, “And this is just the scar he can see! It’s just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine what he’d say if he could see the real scar–the one inside?”

I try not to get too down on myself when I regress along my journey to repairing myself emotionally. There will be times when I take a few steps backward, but I have to believe that ultimately, I will always more forward. I know what I’m working towards now. I’m striving to reach the day when I can look back on the “Era of Lorraine” & say to myself, “Wow! That’s one hell of a scar.”

And that’s the day I’ll know I’m healed. Scars signify survival. Scars provide proof that healing has occurred. I long for the day when my open wound becomes a scar.

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