I drove down Main Street in a hospital-induced fog. I was having one of the worst days of my life. Even worse than the original ‘worst day of my life,’ one week prior. My older brother was on week three of a seemingly endless hospital stay after a string of unfortunate events led to a serious spinal infection that consequently broke his back. His condition required six weeks of IV antibiotics, and three major reconstructive surgeries.
Each day was an immense challenge, and though some days he showed improvement, most days it was an incredible feat if he could even sit up in bed. In fact, to this day I still remember the surge of joy I felt when I walked into his hospital room and he was sitting in his recliner. On this particular day I left the hospital in a state of disarray after witnessing a rough session with physical therapy. My brother often got frustrated with PT, and rightfully so. He was in tremendous, unimaginable pain, and I don’t blame him for not wanting to try some days.
It was extremely taxing for me to watch. Seeing someone you love in extreme pain, day after day, is something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It impacts you in a way one can never understand until they’ve had to experience it themselves. To this day, writing or talking about the ordeal makes me cry. Bawling in the hallway, as I so often did during my daily visits with him, just wasn’t enough on this particular day. I had to just drive. There was nowhere to go, but I knew that I couldn’t go home yet. Not like this. I popped Taylor Swift’s new album, 1989, into the CD drive of my Jetta and just drove.
I was numb. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel, so I just drove. As I turned off Main Street, the album transitioned to ‘Out of the Woods,’ and just like that, I lost it. Everything that I couldn’t think, couldn’t fathom feeling, came rushing to the surface. I wondered how on earth things would ever be the same. I wondered what life would be like for us, if he never walked again, or worse, if we lost him. Things were so uncertain, and despite finally having a diagnosis, and knowing what was wrong, he wasn’t getting better.
I tried to be strong when I saw him. I willed myself not to cry in front of him, but mostly I tried to be present and in the moment. Just being there with him was enough to let him know how much I loved him. When I finally allowed myself to feel every thought that I had pushed away, I couldn’t bear it. As the other cars zoomed past me and the sun began to set, I couldn’t understand how the world was still turning. Our entire world was crumbling, life as we know it could very well be changed forever, yet the earth was still rotating. People were going about their lives like everything was normal, yet for us, nothing was normal and everything was a mess. It was as if life in this moment didn’t make sense.
As the song ended, and I listened to Swift belting out the lyric “Are we out of the woods yet?” suddenly it hit me. No, we weren’t out of the woods yet, but that’s when I realized something important. When your world is crumbling, you can be sure of just one thing. When tomorrow comes, the sun will still rise, and life will go on. If you’re struggling or in pain, if you can’t be sure of anything, if life is too much to bear, or too much of a mess, remember that. The sun will still set tonight, and rise again tomorrow. Life will carry on.