I used to be self-conscious about my highly sensitive, cries-too-quickly heart.
For years, I chastised myself: “you are too naive, privileged, and soft.”
Your Pollyanna bullsh*t needs to be tested with the hard knocks of human suffering.
Stop saying, “the world is weeping” when it’s just rain.
Your vulnerable skin bleeds with a tenderness that cannot survive a cruel world, ready to swallow up your “glad game” with an unforgiving bitch-slap across your face.
So I trained in toughness. My eyes narrowed.
Healthy and not-so-healthy boundaries were solidified to protect my fragility from the real world.
I learned to fight in a ring, to say “no” in all capital letters, stick middle fingers up at perceived danger, and spew a string of f*ck you’s to any outside perpetrator.
I found my voice—fierce and guttural—rolling eyes in the face of haters.
But one night, on a late, rainy harvest full moon, the tide changed.
After a long day of working at an AIDS hospice and teaching yoga, I took an Uber over to George Washington Hospital.
I knelt with sunflowers in hand, next to my 30-year-old friend’s bed.
The kaposi’s sarcoma had rapidly spread through his body, already compromised with HIV.
He opened his mouth and pulled up his lips, “see it’s even on my gums,” which were bright red, bleeding and swollen.
He had been given two weeks to live.
He said, “I just want to be able to laugh again without my whole body hurting. I’m not ready to die. I just want to get better.”
He is a talented artist, who has created contemporary black comic book characters. His nature is kind and gentle—the world needs his beauty.
It seems unfair and cruel that he won’t have time to share his dreams. He has so much to offer.
We sat together in silence without answers.
As I kissed him good night, I smiled through a tearstained face, “F*ck yes to love.”
I will no longer apologize to myself or others for being a believer. I don’t care if my “naive heart” burns down in ashes—it is strong enough to get back up.
Love is a force with the raging power to heal even when it dies.
Love can always be reborn in different shapes, memories, relationships, in butterflies, and redwood trees.
The risk of “breaking open” will hurt like hell, but it’s always worth the freedom found on the other side.
“Rising” is not just a mythological event meant for phoenixes and Jesus. We are all brave enough to be reborn.
If we get eerily quiet, we can feel the undercurrent of our universal resilience.
A wise teacher of mine, Ángeles Arrien, left her feisty human form in 2013. She was a cultural anthropologist, a warrior woman, a visionary, healer, and one of my heroines.
She studied native cultures and spoke of the heart as the bridge between Father Sky and Mother Earth.
For these traditions, the heart is described as full, open, clear, and strong.
In The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary, Ángeles feels that we should check the heart’s condition daily, asking:
“Where am I fullhearted?
Where am I openhearted?
Where am I clear hearted?
Where am I stronghearted?”
I have spent many nights and mornings kneeling vigil at the bedside of people courageous enough to let go into death.
These humans are my greatest teachers of how to live.
They have taught me that choosing to love again is always worth the heartache of loss.
Pollyanna was onto something with her “glad game” because gratitude is the fuel to remain strong, clear, full, and open.
I will no longer apologize for my childlike eyes of wonder.
They see stars as faces, trust the gravity of a full moon, and cuddle up with the mystery of life and death.
“I am here. I am here. I’ve already seen the bottom, so there’s nothing to fear. I know that I’ll be ready when the devil is near.” ~ Pink