The Healing Journey: Part One – Make Good Memories
Yesterday afternoon, I received a heartbreaking phone call from a lady who needed some advice. She had just learned that a close member of her family had been a victim of abuse by another family member and she was devastated. Their family relationships are shattered and she wasn’t sure what she should do. Those who know me, know that I don’t like to give advice because so often, well-meant advice is given without access to all the facts of the situation. I much prefer to listen intently, ask questions, and help the person find their solution to their situation. However, I was glad to be able to give her some resources for her and her family member.
A question that other abuse victims frequently ask me is “How do I start the healing process?” We are all different and yet we have all lived with the pain of past experiences. Whether you are learning to live again after being sexually or physically abused, losing a child or spouse, or suffering a life-shattering physical injury, I believe that one critical step to beginning life “After” is to start living. I don’t mean merely existing. I mean truly living. Getting started can be the most difficult part. Perhaps you don’t feel like you deserve to live and laugh and love again. Perhaps you just don’t feel like going on because it takes too much effort. Perhaps you have lost hope and can’t yet see the beauty in life “after.” Starting to heal means truly living again. One of the best ways to do that is to just start LIVING. Be intentional about planning good experiences to create good memories. It doesn’t mean you will forget the bad ones – they will likely always be a part of you – but it does mean starting the process of rebuilding life by giving yourself something positive to look forward to and then something positive to look back on.
I’m very intentional about spending time making good memories with friends and loved ones. I plan ahead, sometimes months and months in advance so I have something to look forward to and something fun to look back on. One example of this is the adventure race I participate in every year. In 2009, I was on a business trip in New York when my friend Autumn called me. She heard about this adventure race and asked me to partner with her, telling me that it involved some running and biking and a “little” kayaking. I agreed, thinking it sounded fun. I didn’t find out until the night before the race that it also involved crawling through a mud pit, jumping off an old lock into the river, rappelling down an 80′ rock face, navigating through the woods with a compass and various other challenges.
I thought that first race would never end. We “energetically discussed” several times over who was paddling the wrong way (both of us), who would be the one to rappel (I lost), and who got us into this mess (she did). More than five hours after the
start, we dragged one another over the finish line, soggy, muddy, exhausted, blistered, sunburned, still friends, and very happy. We both have birthdays in October and it’s become our tradition to celebrate each year by racing. Since that first race, I think we’ve only missed once because I was traveling. Last year, we won for the first time! It’s one way I very intentionally spend time with her and very intentionally we create a good memory together.
Mack and I also focus on creating memories. Rather than giving each other gifts, we create a memory together on special occasions. Last year for our anniversary, we hiked Stone Mountain. Not just up it and down again but also all the way around the bottom of it! One year we spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend in a chalet with the family. One Christmas eve I had to work until after 6:00pm so Mack went out and bought ingredients for a special dinner that night that we cooked together.
Where ever you are, whatever you are going through or recovering from, make some plans today to create some good memories with friends and family. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but do something fun together – volunteer for a service project, plan a 5k together, spend the whole day outside at your local park with no cell phones, or maybe skip the gym one morning and sleep in with your spouse. Don’t wait until you feel like it. Don’t wait for the “perfect time” because now is the perfect time. Make some good memories to take some steps on the road to healing.