Broken bones.

I’ve been dealing with some stress lately. Work is busy (duh), but we’re also beginning a construction project to renovate our home. Which means dealing with banks, insurance companies, and work crews, while keeping two small children housed and occupied. And we’re moving out, which means packing, total chaotic messes, and uncomfortable transitions (for all of us) from our established and well-worn routines. It’ll be several months like this, and I’ve been managing everything as best I can, but some days are better than others, as is to be expected.

I started to reflect on how I’m feeling as this unfolds around me, and an interesting thought occurred to me. I was a very sensitive child, internalizing far more than I probably should have. As such, I packed a lot of anxiety and stress inside and it had negative effects on me and my worldview. I’m far better at dealing with it now, but I’m acutely aware of certain situations that trigger shapeless feelings of dread and unhelpful patterns of thinking. Thankfully, I’ve developed better awareness of when this is happening and can identify it, working through it in a more healthy way than I could as a kid. A predilection toward organization of my personal responsibilities bordering on religion is part of that.

But there was a time in my life that I didn’t feel this way: college. I embraced an almost anarchic existentialism in my activities that in hindsight was really nothing more than pushing the boundaries of the senseless freedom of youth, but afterward I slowly returned to my “normal” state. I thought about this and how that experience shaped and changed me but ultimately allowed me to re-form in a similar but slightly different (I like to think better) way.

It’s like breaking a bone: it’ll set, it’ll heal, and you’ll go back to the way things were, but it won’t ever be exactly the same. Once you break it, in the aggregate it’s still the basic shape and size and serves the same purpose, but there are small variations and flaws that weren’t there before. Sometimes they’re innocuous, sometimes these variations yield long-term negative results, and sometimes they change things in ways we couldn’t have anticipated, making us stronger for the experience.

At times like this, I try to remember that all those bones I’ve broken have made me the person I am today, and I’m (mostly) pretty satisfied with how I’ve “set”. I’m sure to break many more bones along the way. But the shape of me won’t fundamentally change. I hope those healing periods to come bring positive changes.

Author: Seth Clifford

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