The battered paperback student dictionary on my messy, overflowing desk says that recovery is the act of getting back (like stolen or lost property), getting well again, or returning to good condition.
This week seems to be one to think about recovery, even if it’s not necessarily my own. I heard a story on the radio about a woman who spoke of the murder of her daughter and how the life she knows now is altered and different, never to be the same. I have friends dealing with loss and limbo in the days after the Colorado floods. A different day, a different week there would be another story, another sadness, another scenario, another sorrow. Loss and devastation and sadness.
Sometimes recovery is short-term and easily performed. If I drop or lose something, I can easily recover it, provided I can remember where I put the keys or my wallet. In high school track, we used to have “recovery runs” or easy days in a syncopated schedule, right before or right after a hard workout or race, to allow our bodies time to heal and be ready for the harder days. With major injuries or sustained time off from exercise, though, recovery takes time and needs deliberation to find the pace and peace of fitness. Recovery in this sense can be slow and plodding, but also magical and methodical.
Other types of recovery are longer, even permanent. My dad, going on 30 years of sobriety from alcoholism, always likes to remind people that recovery is one day at a time. He cautions that you are never cured of alcoholism, but you can recover. The ongoing healing becomes part of one’s being.
Sadness, death of a loved one, traumatic events, natural disasters. The plight and wonder of being human is that we will encounter injuries and illness, health and happiness. It’s all together in our lives: love and loss, danger and discovery, birth and death. My favorite verses in Ecclesiastes come to mind, quoted by the Byrds in ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
We recover in different ways. There’s the physical act of healing after an injury. Sometimes an injury becomes a permanent part of our being. Sometimes the injuries are unseen, in our minds and hearts, but still there, raw and open and oozing years later. There’s the oft-repeated, “You don’t recover from this.” Sometimes the first steps of recovery are the easiest and most obvious: cleaning up debris after the storm, assessing the need for a knee-bump bandage after a bicycle spill, arranging for the funeral of a family member. After those first steps, though, what next? After the initial flurry, the loss may become what we hold onto, since we can no longer hold a lover’s hand.
Do we have the support, the time, and space to grieve? Do we give ourselves that gift? Are we able to pick up the pieces and dust ourselves off? Are we able to give that space and healing to others? What do you recover? What do you leave behind? Are we ready to know that recovery is ongoing? Are we ready to know that our recovery may make our old selves, our old realities parts of the past?
If you pray, pray for those, both nearby and faraway, in recovery. Send thoughts and hopes to those in recovery. In some ways, we are all recovering. We gather, we separate, we take stock, we look back, we look forward. We take steps, one at a time, one day at a time.