flesh and stone

I hate days like this. Days when I wake up with a lump in my throat feeling as though at any given moment I could sink down into a mound on the floor and shed a thousand tears.

Most days are not like this. Most days I am pretty up, pretty positive, pretty peppy. But every once in a while, I have a day when life seems to catch up with me and take its toll.

I have come to realize that this is part of having an open heart. Just yesterday I heard someone talking about a heart of stone being replaced with a heart of flesh.

I love the way that sounds. So beautiful. So alive. I want a heart of flesh. I want to love deeply and fully and freely and generously. I want an open heart.

But there is a cost.

A heart of stone is very difficult to hurt. Stone is heavy and hard and fairly indestructible. And impermeable. Nothing goes in, nothing goes out.

But flesh is another matter entirely.

Flesh is soft and warm and malleable. Flesh is organic and living. It breathes. Flesh takes in and gives out. And flesh is vulnerable.

We have all heard the phrase “love hurts”. I disagree. Giving and receiving love does not hurt. But having a soft and tender heart that loves people and life also must grieve from time to time.

Because this world is not a perfect place. People hurt one another and themselves. And sometimes the awareness of that truth attacks my heart of flesh. And it hurts.

But as I am having one of those days when it all catches up to me, I realize this is the cost of an open heart. It hurts from time to time. And I am tempted to close this heart of flesh and trade it in for a heart of stone.

But no. I won’t. I will keep my open heart, my heart of flesh. Even if it costs me some pain now and then on days like today. Because I would rather be open and give and receive and breathe than be hard and heavy and impermeable.

The cost is entirely worth it to me.

Advertisements

whispers and a break

My heart is twisted and wrung completely out as I watch my son struggle. Four out of the five times I have been to the hospital with a child have been for him. IVs, staph infections, broken arms, and ear surgeries are petrifying for children.

I have seen more bravery from this child than I have living in my entire adult body. Because of course, I don’t define bravery as the absence of fear but the overcoming of it.

And with all of those trips to the hospital, I could offer my son comfort with my very presence. Hugs and kisses from mom softened the pain and made things more bearable. Just being there with him. Never leaving his side. Whispering encouraging words in his ears. Telling him I love him.

But in this moment, I must simply sit and watch. And make no mistake, it is excruciating.

Karate testing day always throws him. Most people don’t notice. He hides it like a master illusionist. But I, his mother, know exactly what his face looks like as he holds his tears at bay. And every time, I squirm inside.

But this is the absolute worst it has ever been. He is required to break a youth board, as he should be. We all know he is plenty strong enough to do it. If he came at the board the same way he tears through the practice target, there would be nothing but splinters left.

But he hesitates every time that board shows up. Of course he does. He is tender. He is kind. He is a lover.

So I watch him struggle. And fighting the instinct to swoop in and save or help or whisk him away from difficulty is one of the most difficult things for me to do as a parent.

He is in the best of hands, though. After more tries than it should take of kicks and elbow strikes, as we see him breaking down and wiping away tears he wishes were not coming down his cheeks in front of all of these people, his instructor pulls him close and tenderly whispers to him. He hands him the board and sends him back to his spot on the mat.

My son covers his face, pushing his nose into his elbow in a way that I know he wants to disappear from this moment. One of the other instructors goes to him, sits next to him and gently whispers in his ear.

A few minutes later, as class is excused and the children get up to have their boards signed (karate tradition), there are more whispers to him from a third instructor who walked around for days, perhaps even weeks with an unbroken board. He knows better than anyone in the room what my son is experiencing right now.

I have no idea what all these whispers are. But I am eternally grateful for them. Because I sit frozen on my chair. All that is in me wants to go and hug my son.

Instead, my hand grips the thigh of my friend next to me. She whispers me through this, reminding me of what I already know. That this will require something from my son that he has to find inside himself.

He waits patiently next to his instructor until the last board is signed. And then he says, “I want to try again.”

He throws a few elbow strikes as we all hold our breath. The tears begin to well up again when his instructor suggests a spinning back kick. On the first try, the CRACK of the board rings out followed by an eruption of cheers and applause.

I couldn’t be more proud. Not because my son broke a piece of wood. But because he refused to let that piece of wood break him.

potato chips and chocolate

The crinkle of the bag brings me hope and dread all at once. My pain draws me to the cupboard without my awareness. I have been carrying around this powerlessness and it is heavy and painful and I want an escape from it. But there is none. That doesn’t stop me from looking, though.

As the salt touches my tongue, it seems to be a numbing agent on my heart. For the moments that my mouth is full, the overpowering taste blocks out my emotions.

Eventually, I finish the bag or the bag finishes me leaving my mouth raw. I sit for a minute, trying to force the satisfaction to stay. But eventually it runs away like it always does and my mind dances with the sweet that would sooth the savory I just consumed.

Another crinkling bag delights my ears. I pull out the handful of dark chocolate chips and let them sit for a while to be warmed by my hand. Then in my mouth they go as the cocoa, rich and smooth begins to soften and ooze together forming a luscious mound of heaven that melts down my throat.

Eventually I realize the break from my pain was only temporary, and the let down sets in. I want this to help but it doesn’t. I try night after night, but the pain remains. I cannot control others. I cannot change what they think of me. I cannot force someone to listen.

All I can do is let go and mourn what is lost. And sometimes that is more of a process than I would like it to be, even with my potato chips and chocolate.

the mysterious miracle of healing

This may seem like a silly picture. That’s okay because it is one that I took because I marveled at what I was seeing. This is a picture of a redwood tree that has been burned and is in the process of healing.

I am amazed by the miracle of healing. No matter where anyone believes that healing comes from, the fact that it takes place at all is astounding to me. I happen to believe that when healing takes place, it is a mixture of a lot of different factors. I believe in a God who heals. I believe God made the human body and human spirit in such a way that they have a propensity to heal. And I am grateful for science and health professionals who know how to come along side a human body or human spirit offering invaluable help to bring healing. And I get most excited when I see all these things mysteriously come together so that I can’t tell where one factor starts and the other ends but somewhere in the process of it all the miracle of healing takes place.

I had a minor surgery just a few days ago. Nothing big or alarming, but enough that I had to be put under and sharp things went at my body. Afterwards, I had to rest. My body needed time to heal.

Sometimes it can be frustrating to take a time out from normal life in order to take time to heal. Needing someone else to make me food or take care of my children or clean my house or drive me around can feel powerless. Healing makes me needy. I don’t generally like to fall into the needy category.

And yet I have been amazed the last few days when I get up after a longer night’s sleep than I thought anyone with children was allowed to have (after spending all day resting and napping for more hours than seems reasonable), I feel better. I have a marked improvement from the day before. Healing is taking place.

And because a year ago I was dealing with some very difficult things and thought I would forever need my weekly visits to my counselor just to survive, this current physical healing is reminding me of the healing of my spirit I experienced this past year. Although the healing was in my spirit, there was a very physical, physiological piece involved as well. Turns out I had a nervous system that was awry and needed some help re-setting.

I had no idea how this nervous system piece was affecting me. I thought it was normal to experience life the way I did. My coping mechanisms worked well. But then, as healing started to happen, I marveled at what “normal” really was. It was as if I had figuratively been walking around crippled with a broken back having no idea that the rest of the world didn’t stare at the ground all the time but walked upright instead.

Of course, we don’t always heal. I have had many dear friends this year loose loved ones and I am acutely aware that healing does not always happen. And yet, the fact that sometimes it does is still amazing to me. And so even though my incision wounds are still sore, they are much less sore than yesterday or the day before that. And even though my throat is still a bit scratchy from the tube they put down it while I was blissfully knocked out by the drugs they gave me, it is also better than yesterday or the day before. My body is healing due to the mysterious combination of factors: my husband has been taking care of our home and three children so that I can rest, bodies do heal, and I believe God has his hand in there too.