Severe Mercy

Severe Mercy

This is a piece that is about your personal journey and the process from the shaping event to helper for others.  It is about the permission to be in the stage that you are while knowing that it will come to the point of transition into the next. I thought more people have heard the phrase but in conversations this is not common.  Severe is that part of the pain that is searing, and mercy is that part that turns into help for others.  Hope you like this.

Severe Mercy

It never is the color you are expecting.  The corner you turn appears common and the result is nothing that was expected.  The sight and the sound and the impact that penetrates to your core will leave you changed in a manner that you could not have planned and would not have hoped for.  The term PTSD is often connected to the military experience, but it is just as real for the one that has the miscarriage or the divorce or the loss of a parent that was unexpected and painful.  It is traumatic and it is personal, especially when it is unexpected.  Especially when it is from one you thought as friend.

The issue of severe is something that comes with much baggage.  The notion that it, the severity, is undeserved is only one.  The idea that the world is harsh and dangerous is lost on those whose life has been spared much pain. Anesthesia wasn’t invented until 1846 but we don’t think of all of those that lived before it. Before it would be used for little and large pain everywhere.  We are comfortable with being comfortable, simply forgetting that much of the world spends great parts of their day simply doing the tasks of getting water and fuel for the fire.  We simply walk to the kitchen and turn on the stove and fill a pan with water for the pasta or the soup.  We forget that some water comes with the snake or the bacteria that will kill.  We are comfortable… until the pain comes.

When the gift comes, and we never call it that, it is hot and sharp and horrid.  It is personal and an act of injustice in the cosmos.  Something had gone awry in the system of justice, or it would not have happened.  We are na├»ve about the harshness of things in life and then complain when it comes our way.  There is a town in Cameroon, Africa that was nearly wiped out by a mysterious gas that killed people across the entire valley and in mass. 2,000 people in several villages died.  No one knew the cause and yet they were all dead as they stood in their places, slept in their beds or while doing their daily tasks.  The cause was later found to be a part of the hillside that slid down into the bottom of the lake and pushed some gas up out of the bottom of the lake, and it overwhelmed the valley and displaced the oxygen.  No one to blame.  No one to explain the purpose. No one to cry out to for justice.  

Later comes the ability to use the crutch.  The strength to try, the friends to help.  Later come the memories and the reminders of the cause of the pain.  For now, the pain is current and real.  Real powerful and real personal.  The idea that you are alone and that the hope of tomorrow is for others and not you.  That the world is silent or worse spinning on and having fun while you are the one in the mouth of the crocodile.  Spinning in the death-roll is hardly the time to think of your 401K and your distant future grandchild. Survival is all you are wanting to achieve. Something that yesterday seem certain and with hope, but today is a place that is out of reach and would be described as only for others… darkness and foreign are the terms of today.  Harsh and relentless are the waves crashing on your beach.  Others are carefree and living with joy.  Yours is the lot that was given to be filled with the fog of pain and the darkness of the future yet to be seen.

Lost.  Disoriented.  In need of the friend and yet numb to their aid and support.  Concussed is not too strong of a term. The smell of the smoke of the fire that consumed your hopes is still strong in your memory.  Still acrid and pungent to your nose. It colors your vision and burns as you breathe it in and back out.  It is severe.

There is a place in life that comes at these times.  Like a cul-de-sac in a residential part of town, you enter from the thoroughfare into the quiet and the less traveled way. This street is called Grief, and it is the way you get to the circle at the end.  It is here that the noise dissipates, and you rest.  Not certain how you found it in the first place, but glad that you can rest.  It is not long before you are confronted with the neighbors that come to see you.  First one and then another and soon you have been asked to come in for a glass of tea or cup of coffee and a plate of understanding is set before you.  It is here that you are given the time and the attention that you need to relax a little, and soon you discover that they have stories similar to your own.  This is a cul-de-sac of the wounded and the healing.  It is a place you can find safe and a place to call home… for a while anyway.

Later on, after the stories and the tears and the healing you know that it is time that you travel again.  This is only the place for the temporary and not the permanent.  It is time to leave.  Here is a curious part of this. The only way out is the road that brought you here, Grief.  You cannot go a different way and deep inside you know you cannot stay.  It was a place you needed and was appreciative of the time you were given to stop the voices screaming and the storm raging. The place of rest comes with an internal clock that says it is time to go.  You can ignore it, and many have.  You can make a comfortable dwelling in this place, among your new friends.  It is the place that you are enjoying when the outsider comes to call you back to life.  It is where the sage comes to guide and the friend calls you to be more.  It is where Simba is found by Nala, and brought out by Rafiki. But only by going down the road of Grief.  He had to go back through the death of his father, and the part he played in it, and the lies of Scar.  This is the path of healing.  To walk back down the path that took you to a place to reflect, and then to continue on the journey a changed person.

Still there are reminders of the past and the history and the struggles of your own humanity… but one day there will come a time for your story to come forth.  There are several cul-de-sac options, and you can move from one to another easily.  They all have names as well, like angry drive and bitter harshness… you can make a list pretty easily, actually.  Still, they may be parts of the journey for a time, but they are not the healing that you are looking for.  They are places you can stay, and you will have companions there that feed your wounds with the salt that keeps you angry, but you are still looking for the justice that remains elusive.  It seems that it is only for others and not for you.  All the mirror shows are your wounds, scars and pain.

What of the mercies that are to be found?  There will come a time in the future that you will be confronted with a choice.  To let it go and trust that justice will come to the one that caused the pain, or to remain angry and extract joy from those you come near and exude the bile of the lost.  You have met these people.  Not quite Eeyore, he was simply a somber version.  More like Scar, that enjoys causing the pain and watching the struggling because he felt slighted by the injustice of life. This is a day that we all confront.  Some can tell of the pain and the power of the story will bring hope.  Some will only drive away friends and pollute good company.  This is the power of a severe mercy to heal, even in part, the one that tells their story.  It is at the root of the many forms of 12 step programs, to have a place to tell your story, and to listen to another tell their own.  To hear of the struggle and the pain and the loss.  To know that you are not alone in the darkness, suffering at the hands of fools, degrading and humiliating struggles. To give the testimony of the one that was wounded by the vagaries of life, and yet still be strong enough to be vulnerable.  To be vulnerable enough to move others, by your words, and the hope that is within you.

It is a severe mercy that comes with this part of life.  To call the wound a ‘gift’ is something that the freshly wounded will not understand and don’t want to hear.  They are not interested in anyone’s pain but their own.  They are not interested in helping others because the screaming in their ears is still too loud.  They are wanting understanding and empathy and solitude… at least for a little while.  To let the spinning plates fall and break and the sticks they were on stop bouncing on the floor.  To know that the noise will go away… one day.  At least that is the hope.  They don’t want to know about the future… They aren’t interested in helping others with their story.  They cannot even tell their own, yet.

It is a different day that will let the story be one of healing for others.  After you have screamed at the power of the darkness and the silence of the heavens.  After you have spent your anger on the God that does not answer, cried out in lament and sorrow, because it didn’t have to be ‘this way’.  But it is and it cannot be undone.  If your friend is in this place it is hard.  If it is you, no one knows this smell of death.  It is the death of dreams and hope.  It is the place of your own hopes that have disappeared from your path that you believed you ‘deserved’…

When will come the healing?  How will you know?  There is a time when the tears come less, and the story comes sooner.  There is a willingness to go first, a willingness to be vulnerable.
Out comes the tale no one knew or suspected. Out comes a tale of magnitude of pain you didn’t know anyone could have endured and yet it is your own lips forming these words… and it is your story.  Surprise, realization that it is real and then the abyss.  Wandering numb into a place that you can rest, the healing hands of others and then the selfcare that only you can give.  The limp that reminds, the foreshortened reach and the grip that cannot hold as it once could.  Then the story of the helpers comes first. The grace extended in the midst of the fog.  This is the place of the beginning.  The spiral of the Yellow Brick Road begins here, at the hopes and calling of the ones that helped you get on your way.

This is how you will know that you are on the path to accepting the power of your story.  You already have accepted your story, but now it is the power of it that you are getting familiar with.  To acknowledge the history and the growth is the beginning, but to reach a place that the reluctance is less, and the awareness that it is a help to the others in the room is a sign of maturing in your journey.  Not to brag about it, but to own it.  It is a severe mercy that you can give to others, the idea that one day you can walk with the limp into a room and tell of the gift of this wound and the compassion of others in your healing.  It is actually their story that you are telling.  That they believed in you enough to give, and then they did.  They are the amazing ones.  You are now at a place that you can see them through the window, rather than your sorrows and pain in the mirror you used to hold.  It is now not about you, and your gift of mercy will ring that truth to those that hear.  Tell of your gift. Tell of the mercy you have been given.  Tell your tale, as only the one that lived it can tell… with a severe mercy.


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