June 25, 2020

A Message from a Victorian Era Antique to the Troubled Modern World.

I walked into the bedroom feeling pretty good. Until I saw my heart lying broken on the floor.

Its little shards of various sizes and shapes were scattered on the tile.

Tears came immediately. This heart was precious to me. Inherited, old, carefully crafted. It has weathered moves, marriages and divorces, childbirths, exaltations, and deep disappointments. It was something I wanted to pass on to one of my daughters or granddaughters. I’ve thought of giving it up many times, but have been unable. Now, I had no choice but to put it on my altar and honor it in its broken state.

I could blame my cleaners; they must have done it. Or I could blame myself; I left it on that low table where it was vulnerable. Or I could blame God. After all, S/he has been handing out some pretty fierce material that could definitely result in a broken heart.

I’ve actually been thinking of the Biblical story of Job recently. Cataloguing my miseries is easy and tempting.

One daughter has advanced metastatic breast cancer, and despite all her valiant efforts and our attempts to be supportive, it doesn’t go away.

My broken heart acted up with atrial fibrillation until I was fortunate enough to get a cardiac ablation recently. It appears to have worked—and along with being grateful, I’m sad that my poor heart has had to be injured repeatedly in order to function well.

While recovering, a huge wildfire broke out in the Catalina Mountains above our house, and made its way down into the park neighboring us. We were evacuated, and firefighters had to set a backfire in order to save the houses in our community. It came within a quarter-mile of us. We are home, but still in pre-evacuation mode—cars and suitcases partly packed, in case the wind shifts.

Then there’s COVID-19, which has prevented me from going to see my Colorado daughter, as well as my California one, for that matter. My strong mothering instincts have been stopped in their tracks, along with my business. Still, my suffering pales in comparison to people trying to put food on the table.

The world is on fire. For someone who grew up in the 50s, this has hardly turned out to be the orderly place once advertised. All the events of the 60s and the fervor for justice they spawned are now thrown into question, as we see injustice, racism, and unthinkable political insanities rampant in our world every day.

Clearly, I am not in charge here. And clearly, none of us is.

So the theme of my Job story is up for interpretation. I could argue for “poor me” and certainly “poor us,” except for a couple of pesky details that show up when you’ve claimed to be on a spiritual path.

Cancer has been with our family for four generations, so a spiritual view would point out that we may be evolving in our approach to dis-ease and healing. May it be so.

My own problems with atrial fibrillation have given me a clue: I need now to relax my tendency to push and control and do, rather than just be. And I can give gratitude that I have the chance to live that out.

The wildfire came close, but our house was saved. How grateful we can be! And, hopefully, we’ll never take nature for granted again. She is a much bigger force than we and deserves our deep respect.

COVID-19 has us all frustrated, and yet we could learn to love the beast as Beauty did, since we’ve been forced to take stock of what is truly important? As individuals, as a country, and as a planet, we have some big decisions ahead. And that brings not only crisis, but opportunity.

As for the world, same mix. We have choices to make now. Can we make a turn toward being a culture of the heart? Because our corporate heart is broken, along with the heartless systems that have finally quit working.

As for my glass heart, it is a Victorian snifter with a sterling silver hinged cap, made to hold smelling salts. Crafted of mottled glass around 1897, it might have been a gift to my great-grandmother, since my grandmother was born that year. A tribute to the era where anything improper, unseemly, or scary might send a woman reeling into a faint.

So, what my broken heart says to me now is that of course this had to break. Like everything else that is outmoded, taking smelling salts to induce courage just ain’t gonna do it in this age.

Ladies, in particular those of you in my age group, we need a different kind of courage now. A different kind of heart. Let’s watch the young women who already have it. They are the truth tellers. They take stands. They don’t pretend and please and lie. They are unapologetically equal. They are tender, fierce, and funny. They are the energy of real hope, real faith.

That’s what is on my altar. May I breathe that concoction into my being every day, for a new brand of couer-age. And then breathe it out as love, as encouragement, as solidarity. As Yes.

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