By Heather Snodgrass
I was 18 when my uncle was diagnosed with ALS, and 19 when he died. I will never forget how it felt to hug him four months after his diagnosis, how thin and weak he felt. Or the way it became harder and harder to understand him as he lost control of his mouth. Or the sound of his son’s yell when he breathed his last breath. I sit here in tears as I write this, because all those moments are as real to me now as they were four years ago.
From Dec 5, 2011 to December 26, 2012, I did everything from pretending I didn’t care, to pushing away my friends, to making sure my relationships didn’t get below the surface for too long. In my mind, the only way to avoid feeling the pain was to stop caring about everything.
However, it soon became evident that I was going to cause myself far more pain by living life with my arms stretched out in front of me and my walls a mile high, than if I just allowed myself to sit in the discomfort and recognize how sucky the situation was.
CS Lewis writes “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Life sucks sometimes. Hearts are broken, jobs are lost, people are mean. But here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
- One time doesn’t mean every time. Just because one boy broke my heart doesn’t mean all boys are destined to break my heart. Just because one job didn’t work out doesn’t mean no job will ever work out. Just because I lost one loved one doesn’t mean I’m going to lose them all.
- Loved and lost. Whether it’s a job, an animal, or a significant other, love is terrifying. It’s vulnerable and scary and there’s a possibility of getting hurt. But I’d so much rather live my life with love and possible brokenness, then without any connection at all. “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
- To love is to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a must if I want to thrive in this life. It’s so incredibly hard for me to allow myself to feel the pain and discomfort of the valley moments in my life, but I know that if I don’t, I’m not going to be able to experience the mountain-top moments with the joy that I otherwise could have.
I wish I could say that learning those things made it easier to cope, but it didn’t. I still struggle to let myself feel pain, but I’ve surrounded myself with people who have committed to making sure I embrace the tough times.
God didn’t intend for us to live our lives on the surface, he created us to love and live deeply. It can be painful, but it’s totally worth it.
Heather Snodgrass is 22 and lives in Nashville with her brand new, hot husband, Taylor. Still trying to figure this whole marriage thing out, Heather is passionate about sharing what she’s learned about love and life with others however she can. She is currently working at The Brown Book Agency, an artist management organization, and when she’s not managing the lives of three amazing artists, you can find her training for the Rock n Roll half marathon with her husband, painting her most recent Pinterest finds, or watching all of the cheesy chick flicks on Netflix.