I Can


“I can’t imagine making those choices or going through that.”

It’s a statement I hear a lot when people discuss difficult, painful events that happen to friends, to family members, to acquaintances. For so many years, it’s barely registered with me. I know I’ve said it many times myself.

A few weeks ago, it came up in a conversation. Instead of shaking my head somberly in agreement as I have for years, I found myself saying without warning:

“I can.”

Two words. A rushing flashback of images, doctors, that terrible wind-knocked-out sensation of horror and fear. Mazes of choices and discussions and unthinkable decisions. I may never experience the particular dimensions of someone else’s tragedy, but I can certainly imagine in a way I never was capable of before.

“I can.”

And with it, the dawning realization that I’ve changed bone-deep. Someday I’ll heal, but I’ll never be able to un-know.

For more Microblog Mondays posts, head over to Stirrup Queens.  Thanks to Mel for originating and  hosting. 


14 thoughts on “I Can

  1. “I can” too. You honestly have no idea how much I can relate to that painful “bone-deep” expansion of empathy that comes from navigating impossibly difficult choices.

  2. It’s such a poignant feeling realising you’ve been changed forever. It happened to me watching a number of friends die from drug overdoeses or suicide when I was younger and ran with a very different crowd. You hear that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger but I don’t really believe that. I think it stays with you forever, and in ways that are both good and bad. Yes, you probably are actually stronger, and may cope better with tragedy in future, but you are also forever dented. Your innocence is gone. I think it’s ok to mourn it…

  3. With only a few sentences, you create such a powerful passage. The reality is that you were always standing right next to “I Can,” you just didn’t realize it until you were on the other side.

  4. Yes, it’s hard to come out of this unchanged, and the reminders – certainly those early on – can be painful. But one day, you might be thankful for that. I see my increased empathy as a gift of infertility. It’s something positive that has come out of something so negative. I’m glad about that. If we went through all this and were unchanged, wouldn’t it be a waste?

  5. I have a hard time with the “I can,” because I worry that it comes across as condescending in a way, particularly when you’re talking with someone who has been through the worst. One of my closest friends lost her infant son and soon after it happened we had a discussion on the “I can only imagine…” comments she was getting. She said, “No, they can’t. They can’t imagine because it’s worse even than your imagination.” Granted, she was in the very deepest throes of that agony, but it did make me stop to think… I suppose it’s likely that many, many people (including myself, who has miscarried but only early on) really cannot truly imagine what she’s going through, while others, like you who have been to that place of fear over a very real possibility have a better idea…

  6. Oh, yes. “Changed bone-deep” is true. These experiences give you an empathy that’s a gift, but maybe not the one you (or any of us) wanted.

  7. Love the last line of this post. “Someday I’ll be able to heal, but I’ll never be able to un-know.”

    Looks like your words have resonated with many people. Thank you.

  8. This was beautiful. I completely understand. I almost simply want to say “I can.”
    Pain is often universal, that’s why when we’re in the trenches for so long, time after time, unfortunately do understand that pain.
    Thank you for writing this.

  9. Sometimes living through life’s most painful experiences makes us have more empathy. I suppose it is something good that comes out of the darkest things we live through.

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