I keep thinking about all those stupid metaphors that talk about the work that goes on beneath the surface.
The graceful duck that glides along the surface of a pond, furiously paddling its webbed feet underneath the water…
The deceptive iceberg with its notorious tip, only hinting at the massive destruction it’s capable of…
We’re looking so good on the surface.
We play and dance and laugh and love. We hang up Christmas ornaments and whisper sweet memories of years gone by. We hold hands and have long talks, we cuddle on the couch and stay up late to watch football games together. I smile and breathe more deeply as I watch us glide along beautifully, making progress and getting stronger together.
And then I bump into one of those god forsaken icebergs, and I fear we haven’t made near as much progress as I’d thought. All this time I’d believed we’d were sailing along smoothly into the horizon of happily ever after, and then suddenly I think maybe we’ve just been ignorant to a slow leak in the hull.
I’m used to fooling the outside world. Every relationship looks more effortless than it really is, even to those standing just a few feet outside of it. We’re always shocked to hear about divorce or separation, asking each other “what happened?”, because no one on the outside ever sees the frantic paddling beneath the polite smiles and happy family outings.
But inside, we’re supposed to know. I mean really, how can we not? How stupid and blind do you have to be to believe that things are getting better if the only progress you’re really making is running around in circles?
Stupid and blind, party of one.
But maybe this is normal. Maybe progress is made by taking three steps forward and being yanked two steps back. But it’s kind of hard to tell if your net gain is one or none, what with there being no measurable steps to count and all.
Wouldn’t it be great if progress and healing came with a checklist? If we could move through the pain and mark it done, once and for all, and know we were safe to move on to the next line?
Anger? Check. Trust? Check. Resentment? Check, check, done! And we wipe our hands together and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that that bridge has been crossed, at least.
Apparently it doesn’t work that way. It seems that, even on the inside, there’s no way to know how much lies beneath the surface still, until you bump up against it again and then Oh! Look! Still here! I imagine if icebergs could talk, they would sneer and laugh and call you a fool for being childishly optimistic.
And so… what? What do you do?
Do you crawl slowly through the dark water, never really trusting that it’s safe? Does there ever come a day when you can enjoy a small sigh of relief, being able to look back and say that there, at least, finally, you have made it this far?
Will there ever be open water again?