Valentines Day is a day that we celebrate love, specifically the romantic, Hallmark-fantasy kind of love. And while romantic love is a fine expression, it typically falls short of what the human heart is capable of. Fortunately, life has a way of reminding us, prompting us, to open more deeply to the truth and power of the human heart. If only we will let it.
My 30-year-old niece is dying of cancer. Since her diagnosis 8 years ago I have bounced around in my own little world of this-isn’t-real disbelief, feeling useless and helpless, feeling triggered by unresolved issues between her Mom (my sister) and me, feeling ashamed of not doing more, and trying (unconsciously mostly) to protect myself from feeling and taking on the feelings of our entire family.
As a highly sensitive and empathic person, I have a lifetime of practice in trying to protect myself from feeling overwhelmed by the feelings of others and the pain of this world. The built-in structure of my work, as well as the tools I’ve learned, helps me stay balanced with clients, but my personal life is another story.
Last week I received a text from my sister describing a rushed visit and consult with MD Anderson and a horrible procedure my niece would have to undergo. Not long after, I felt a heavy constriction and ache in my heart that at times left me breathless. My niece and I are not particularly close and her mother and I have had our differences, so my mind dismissed my physical discomfort as having anything to do with them.
It seems however, that my heart had ideas of its own. Thanks to a shared DNA, shared molecules, and perhaps a shared history, no amount of trying to rationalize away or talk sense to it could ease the heavy-weighted drag on my heart. It was only when I took the time to feel into it and say, “I’m here for you,” did it finally break open, with deep wracking sobs, to tell me its story. It told me the story of suffering – mine, yours, my niece’s, everybody’s. It told me that growing up means accepting this world as it is - with betrayals and losses, illness and death, and so many things that we can’t control, and that trying to avoid these things is not the point.
When I finally reached what felt like the bottom of a deep deep well there was peace, but not just the kind of peace that follows emotional purging. This peace came from a power much bigger than me, that extended out from and beyond me, embracing the whole world in tenderness and compassion.
As the weight on my heart was replaced with a soft deep fullness, I came to understand the inherent gift in suffering and the alchemical power of the human heart. It seems that the bigger and broader and more deeply it opens to your suffering and mine, the more it exposes the truth - we are all connected by a holy thread, spun with an unlimited supply of love and compassion that ultimately we can't escape, even when we try.
Happy Love Day Everybody.