The prompt for February is, of course, about HEART.
Heart | Show us your heart. Let it all hang out. When have you thrown yourself into a challenge, or shown/received love?
One thing that is becoming more clear as I grow older is that my understanding, my appreciation and gratitude for certain things expands and deepens with age. Yeah, sort of like the fine wine thing, I suppose. And I have to believe it's good, even when it is scary.
Love for my children, for instance. Oh, when they're young and tender and so vulnerable and innocent, you love them more than anything in the world and would do anything to keep them safe. It is very hard to let that instinct go when they're old enough to make adult decisions and live with the consequences of those choices, especially when the consequences are just devastatingly harmful (from my perspective, anyway, and any person with half a brain could SEE that if they would just open their eyes and ears and LISTEN to their mother....)
Watching that happen is scary-awful for a parent who has tried hard to be a responsible, loving, supportive parent. And. There. Is. NOTHING. You. Can. Do. To. FIX. ANYTHING. Which is even more scary-awful because you could fix anything once upon a time, remember?
I've had to do way more watching than I could ever have imagined. I have watched my children in situations that are light-years distant from any experience in my whole life, and I don't mean that in a good way. My heart has shredded itself with worry and fear and grief and anger and disgust. It has wept for days and weeks over things I cannot change for them. It has resolved to back off, to let it go to God, to put my focus on myself, which I work on every damned day, with some success, actually. But it still hurts with every new sad revelation, and I have to remind myself again that mine is the only life I can save.
Love for my spouse...spouse: such an impersonal word for the person who means more to me than anyone, whose opinion I value more than my own, whose heart I hold within my own heart. The relationship we have is one I coveted for years as I watched the fairly rare couples who had it, and when my first marriage ended, I knew I would never settle for anything less, even if it meant being single for the rest of my life. Blessedly, the Universe threw us in each other's path very quickly, and we had enough sanity left to recognize what a miracle we had. It has only deepened and grown in the 16+ years since we met for the first time on a Pacifica beach. I am so grateful to be loved and cherished the way I am, and I am so blessed to have him to love and cherish back. There is not a day that ends without each of us expressing that love and gratitude to the other.
Love for life. As I age, I am far more aware of just how very fragile we are physically, especially, and how a moment can change everything. That's come from a few accidents -- a badly broken wrist from a parking lot fall, a kidney full of blood from a rehearsal mishap -- and medical crises -- a gangrenous gall bladder discovered after three days of thinking the pain and fever were a heart attack, the death of a friend from a bad infection that didn't get medical attention quickly enough. My afib can cause a great deal of anxiety about my heart health -- although that is also tied up in that misdiagnosed heart attack from 12 years ago! Aches and pains and bumps and bruises can trigger intensive scrutiny: is that normal or is that indicative of something bad? Like many seniors, I am careful where I put my feet these days, and while we don't have the curse of icy surfaces out here, we do have uneven and rocky ground which can cause a stumble which can result in injury.
Balancing reasonable care with unsubstantiated fear is sometimes challenging for me. While we never know just when our number will turn up, it is a terrible thing to live a fearful life, afraid of some accident or illness that will end in our death. None of us is going to make it out of here alive, I understand that. But I also am not ready to let go of this wildly beautiful, unpredictable experience called life. So I try to stay healthy, go for checkups, eat healthy foods (with daily treats, but not big, horrible, heart-attack-on-a-plate ones), and move this body in some kind of exercise every day, even if it is just parking the car a bit further from the grocery store doors for more of a walk. I want time, more time, with my honey, with my kitties. More time to read and write and listen and watch and enjoy and be grateful. More time to expand my heart, to do things that bring me joy. And not to be overly anxious.
Love for others. I don't think any of my friends is going to call me a social butterfly. I am by nature an introvert, but I can function well in extrovert mode for a time (and then I want to come home, sit in my chair, sip tea, pet a cat, and think about the social experience I just had). I am a very loyal person: it takes some time to cultivate a friendship, a good friendship, but I don't let go of it either, sometimes holding onto it past the time to let it go. (That is unless I am lied to or given reason to distrust a person, and then we're done.)
Nonetheless, I have a handful of dear, trusted friends who I treasure deeply, even those I don't get to see face-to-face very often. I have more acquaintances, people who I know and like, but we haven't grown to be close yet, or maybe never; but just a few truly close friends.
I wasdeeply touched and humbled during my surgical recovery time last year by the friends who brought meals, who sent cards or called, who sat with Tony in the waiting room, who visited me at home while I was non-weight-bearing and pretty much confined to home. I felt blessed and grateful that they cared enough to help, and came away resolved to offer help to others, although I don't know that I've done a very good job of that this year.
Likewise, I was humbled and oh so grateful to the friends who found household things to give to R just recently as she moved into a new place following a horrific domestic abuse and violence experience, where she just left one day with a suitcase and her cats, leaving furniture, treasures, clothing, and household furnishings behind. Within a week she was in a safe place and had everything she needed, and we found thrifted, nice furniture for amazingly low prices too. That these generous friends responded so quickly and lovingly was yet another sign for me that angels are indeed among us, and that I am blessed to know several of them.
I understand more now how rare this kind of friendship is, how much
effort it takes from both people to grow it, and how much it can mean as
we age. More of that, please: a challenge for myself.
Love for oneself. Perhaps this is the hardest of all: to love who we are, warts and all, insecurities, ugly thoughts, body and personality flaws, and all the negative thinking that accompanies it. While I am never going to be thin, an executive career woman, rich, stylish, a tireless volunteer for good causes, or even a best-selling writer or actress or speaker, I am still a person worthy of love and beauty and kindness. I forgive myself for things in my past, some of which only I still remember. I forgive myself for not being perfect. I forgive myself for unkindness -- which also extends to me -- and resolve to keep kindness in my thoughts and words, despite the sometimes overwhelming urge to be sarcastic and snippy and negative just because I am good at it.
As I age, I want to be positive-thinking, generous in spirit, and most of all, kind. A kind word can mean more than its speaker can ever imagine. I want to make this my daily spiritual practice: kindness both to myself and to others.
But likewise, I want to give myself permission to walk away from negative people and situations, from people or situations who make the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up, from anything that makes the little alarm bells go off in my head and in my gut. Without apology. Without regret. Just walk away.
This life is too short to do things that make me feel compromised or unsettled or to be with people who don't like me and who make me question things I know to be true. No more. Not now, not ever.
I am worth kindness. I am worth love and self-respect. I am a good, ethical person. And I do not need to compromise who I am for anyone.
This is true heart. This is being true to my heart and my soul.