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I was sweeping my kitchen floor today when I discovered two shards of glass. They were the remnants from a drinking glass that had shattered several weeks ago while we were cooking dinner. I remember how careful I had been that night, scouring the floor to find every last piece. Then, when it seemed impossible that there could be anything left, I swept the surface of the floor several times over, just for good measure.
In the days that followed, I made sure to walk across the room with caution. Always on the lookout for any strays that were sure to turn up. It wasn’t long before I forgot about the broken glass altogether, after all, I had diligently searched for any remaining pieces. Surely, I had found and discarded of the whole thing.
And then, as if out of thin air, those two pieces appeared today. They had become lodged into a corner beneath our countertop. I didn’t notice the glass right away. In fact, it wasn’t until my broom knocked the pieces loose and sent them sliding across the floor did I happen to see them as they reflected beneath the overhead light. There I stood looking down at the pieces that had somehow alluded me several weeks prior. I was so confident in my efforts, that I had once again taken to walking around barefoot. In that moment, it occurred to me that although I didn’t step on the jagged glass, I very well could have. The thought also crossed my mind that it was possible (rather it was more of a likelihood) that there were other shards of glass still lurking in the corners and crevices of the kitchen. And that no amount of searching and sweeping could make them come loose, until they simply just… did.
This incident reminded me of the healing process.
Since coming to terms with my past, there have been so many moments where I have told myself, “Whew! That was hard. I’ve gotten through it, and now it’s over.” No sooner do I tell myself this than I find myself right back where I started, open wound exposed, as if I hadn’t just spent months trying to process thoughts and feelings. It’s during those times of sadness that I begin to believe that I hadn’t dealt with my past at all. It only seemed to be a vicious cycle, without an expiration date. Ideas such as that one were conducive to giving in and giving up. If it’s never truly over, what would be the point of fighting it?
It wasn’t until that moment in the kitchen when I discovered the glass on the floor, when I realized that I was viewing my past in the wrong way. While my emotions regarding my past may seem to be set in circular motion, perhaps it’s more like dealing with the remnants of a broken glass instead:
When I broke the glass, the pieces scattered everywhere. It took a very long time to pick up all of the pieces.
When my parents were incarcerated, my life as I knew it fell apart. It took years to pick up all of the pieces.
After I picked up all of the visible pieces of glass I swept the kitchen several times over, and walked carefully for days.
After my parents were gone, my brothers and sisters and I were left to fend for ourselves. We didn’t know what we were doing much less how to manage money, or run a household. But slowly and surely we managed to pull together and make some semblance of order. But even after things settled down I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I didn’t trust anyone for fear that I would allow them to get too close only to pull the rug from beneath me.
Soon, I began to walk through the kitchen barefoot. I trusted the steps that I had taken to eradicate all of the broken shards. I felt safe.
Soon, I began to trust people again. I got married, bought a house, adopted a dog. I had learned to trust the steps I had taken to overcome my fear and depression.
Out of nowhere a broken piece of glass appeared which could have resulted in injury.
Out of nowhere a forgotten memory resurfaces, and along with it, the pain and fear.
The broken piece of glass certainly looked the same as all of the other pieces. If stepped on, it definitely would’ve felt the same. But it was not evidence that the entire glass had somehow magically found it’s way back into my kitchen. I had discarded those pieces and they were long gone. This shard was just one piece of a much larger glass. Nothing more. Nothing less.
The feeling of fear and rejection, although familiar, is not evidence of my weakness. It may hurt just as much as it did years ago, but it is just one piece of a much larger wound. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Like the piece of glass that I discovered in my kitchen, is it possible that there are other remnants of my past, lurking in the corners and crevices of my mind? Absolutely. But now I know that no amount of soul searching is going to make them come loose, until they simply just… do. And when that happens, I will tend to my wound and deal with the broken pieces, knowing that it’s ok to hurt…just as much as it’s ok to trust.
Peter Combs is a 28 year old husband, writer and former foster child. He currently lives with his wife, Renee, in Atlanta, Georgia. Peter is the author of the blog Home.