Have you ever tried to put together a thousand-piece puzzle? With no box or picture to show you where the pieces go? There’s this jumbled pile of hues and patterns and images, and some of them are obvious while others might be miniscule specks of color. It easy to begin the puzzle, organizing the shapes, sliding together the edge pieces that make up the framework of the picture. Then you have hundreds of mismatched patterns that you know fit together somehow to create a beautiful artwork. But you don’t know what it is supposed to be. What does it look like? How do these pieces work together to create a masterpiece? Looking at that pile is defeating and sometimes you want to grab the whole pile and throw it back in the box and give up. Sometimes you want to take all those pieces and shove them haphazardly on the floor in frustration. Sometimes you press on and manage to match two or three parts and the beginning of a picture forms, and you have hope. Some days you just sit and stare at the pieces trying to figure out what goes where. Some days you stare at the pieces blankly, just a jumbled mess in front of you. Some days the puzzle sits dormant and you don’t even look at it. But you press on, because at the end you know there will be something beautiful.
That, my friends, is my life. Right now. The jumbled mess of shapes and colors and images and expectations and frustrations. I don’t know how all the pieces fit right now. I am struggling through that jumbled mass of confusion as I try to piece my life back together. As I try to grasp this new “normal”. How does it all work?
At my recovery group two weeks ago, we were told that often survivors find it more difficult after their treatment than they found it during their treatment. I can’t tell you how good it was to hear that. To have someone affirm everything that I’ve been feeling. Trying to reclaim my life is hard. I am awash with emotions and fears and struggles. During chemo and radiation there was one focus–survive this! Now I am torn in thousands of different directions. Puzzle pieces of my life falling all around me, and I don’t know how they fit.
How do I manage the pain that remains from surgery? The burned veins from chemo that won’t allow me to fully stretch out my arm? The fatigue that hits some days so hard that I am scrambling at the last minute to find someone to help with my children so I can rest? The inability to think, talk, multi-task like I used to as I struggle through chemo brain? The side effects from various medications leading to more fatigue, irritability, nausea, and a host of other symptoms? The emotional impact of my physical changes, muscle atrophies, missing eyelashes and eyebrows? The solitude of feeling like I’m walking through all this alone, because I’ve gotten through the worst part of treatment, and it would seem I’m “back” to others? The nightmares that recur? The anxiety about the future that strikes, but thankfully, doesn’t linger?
It feels like I am blindly trying to piece back together a life that has been shattered into a thousand fragments. But the picture has changed, and where pieces would meld easily before, they’re now fractured and splintered into unrecognizable shards. There are days where I can take deep breaths and live in the moment, grateful for each exhale the Lord has given. But there are other days where the frustration builds to eruption, and I explode into a grief deeper than I’ve ever known. This “new normal” is hard. Harder than I expected it to be. It is a daily struggle.
Yet I don’t give up. I am a survivor, because the Lord has heard and answered prayer. I cling to hope. I know the artist who has painted the strokes of my life, and I seek to live each day grateful for the pieces that are already arranged, forming the beginnings of my portrait. I may not know what the puzzle is supposed to look like, but He does. And because I know the artist, I also know the end result will be an image more beautiful than I ever dreamed. He takes my hand as I timidly place puzzle piece after puzzle piece in the holes of my life, and He guides me and shows me the place for each one. I am beginning to see the picture, but there are a lot of pieces still left on the table. We will work on the puzzle together, He and I, until that final day comes. The day all of creation groans and longs for when He will slip that final piece in its place. And then as I gaze back over the beauty of my life, the picture I will see is Him. And it will be beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful.
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