When pain is indescribable, unspeakable, unmanageable, and especially, unwanted – what are we to do with our heart? What are we to do with the very thing that got us in this situation in the first place because we loved; became attached; cared; and simply, felt … until this beating mass of beauty became stringy, frayed at the edges, and eventually broken when things went wrong? You’d be forgiven for choosing the answer that makes all kinds of seductive promises about keeping you protected from anything that may hurt you again: Closing down and staying that way. Surely the answer is avoiding anything too risky for the sensitive workings of our nature…Like:
- Hoping for a brighter day;
- Loving without a guarantee of infinite time together;
- Forgiving when you may just be disappointed again;
- Caring in a crowd that cares less;
- Following your dreams knowing that the concrete of reality is no safety net; and,
- Being authentic while standing in front of rejection.
Sitting with a heart that has been immobilised, discarded, pummelled, bruised, or scarred is as vulnerable as we ever get.
Sitting with a heart that has been immobilised, discarded, pummelled, bruised, or scarred is as vulnerable as we ever get. In this space, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s not safe out there and your only option is to step out of the fray. To remove yourself from the thoroughfare of life in favour of asylum on the sidewalk. This line of thinking is logical: “When it hurts, I remove myself from the source of the hurt.” But logic and life are not reliable or intuitive collaborators. To remove yourself from the hurt requires that you take the heart out of your life. It requires that you tip toe on the outskirts of living, only able to dip a toe in the richness, withdrawing from the slightest ripple of hard. Stepping out and closing down means you never dive in. It means that you stay dry – but dry belongs to cardboard and stale crackers and mouths that no longer speak their truth. I’m not saying that staying open-hearted is easy. I’m saying that the alternative is infinitely more dangerous than the effort you need to muster to do more than tip toe around the edges of your life. I don’t need to tell you the consequences of heart deprivation. You know, the deprivation that occurs when you stop saying, “Yes” to possibilities. When you tell Hope she can’t sit with you anymore. And when you stop planting seeds that may (or may not) grow into love or joy or contentment. I don’t need to tell you what happens because that would mean dragging you back to memories of the bathroom floor – which, when seen from the ground level of neglecting one’s heart, was a mosaic of desperation and loneliness. And the couch with the cushions all covered in boredom and missing out. And the pantry filled only with jars of stuck and going nowhere and rotting fear. I don’t want to take you back there. And I know you don’t want to go. Because you get it (even when you don’t like to admit it – that means you can’t pretend anymore that band aids actually work, or that your emotional injuries so far are terminal, and so, what’s the point?) There’s a point, and we both know it. The point is that the only way forward for us – we of the punctured-but-persistent hearts – is to stay open. To choose to expand when logic says to contract and to start again from an end that feels like it’s a back cover with no sequel. But how? I wish this was the part where I could offer you an Ask-How-worthy set of steps, although to do so would only be disrespectful to the unique and very individual shade of wound that only you have seen. Instead, I’ll offer only my thoughts for you to take where they fit for you:
Forgive yourself for wanting (and actively seeking) refuge from life
And then step back on the thoroughfare and keep walking your path.
Observe your thoughts and feelings without giving up your control
Thoughts and feelings give you information that is only sometimes worth your time and energy (check with your intuition, here). They don’t need to be traffic lights that dictate your progress forward, or detours that demand you change your entire course (no matter how loud or strong they seem to be).
Speak kindly to yourself.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A negative and critical internal voice is a blockade, not a bridge. If you’re determined to stay open and choose among your choices, then the effort to speak to yourself with gentle awareness (i.e. a voice that’s on your side but refuses to let you cop out) matters and is worth it – especially when you can’t see or feel a difference.
Respect advanced retrospection.
If you were to imagine you were sitting in your favourite chair, on your 80th birthday, reflecting back upon the life that you lived from today until that moment, what would you wish you had chosen? What would you like to say to you had done? Which decisions do you want to say you made? Any of the answers describe life on the sidewalk? Didn’t think so.
Be selective of …
Who you include in your tribe. The opinions to which you give weight. Expectations you have of yourself. The stories you choose to believe about your mistakes and failures. The fodder you feed your heart. – Because garbage in, garbage out.
Despite all the risk, and all the mess, and all the unknown that lies ahead, go and sit with Hope.
Figure out what’s true for you and live that.
No matter how long it takes, and how many times you trip up along the way, it’s much easier to remain open-heated when you’re living authentically than if you’re living a version of life that someone else has decided upon for you. To you, my wounded-but-wonderful hearts: Despite all the risk, and all the mess, and all the unknown that lies ahead, go and sit with Hope. And conspire with your dreams. Go and participate in love. And dive into your life and trust your ability to swim. Because the alternative is not your way anymore.