What the heart carries
Every day the human heart beats around 100,000 times and creates enough energy to drive a truck 20 miles. In an average lifetime that is 2.5 billion heartbeats, creating the energy equivalent to driving to the moon and back. The heart has its own electrical impulse and can continue beating outside of the body, impressively independent of our own desires.
While we live, the heart blooms and breaks and tightens like a fist. If we are courageous and open, it blooms again. Over and over. Broken and blooming, broken and blooming. Our chest continually confronted by our world and the current of our individual lives.
Inside my own heart are mountains and seas, afternoons and backyards. Paper, blue ink, music. I carry the blush of bougainvillea and my mother's brave shoulders. I carry neighborhoods, whole cities, mouths eager as spring. Sonnets, recipes, love letters. Blessings, false starts, so much love, and the dark sleep of a friendship gone astray. I carry my father's stories and his father's stories and the sound his eyes make when I leave home. I carry a photograph of every person I have ever loved sewn deeply into muscle and the thread is thick with beauty and recollection.
The weight of living is heavy.
I am a strong and tender thing. I feel things deeply. I continue to be shocked and horrified by the evening news and impending doom. I think about cancer, mental illness, poverty, war, child exploitation, mass shootings, the environment. I worry about my family, my friends and the man at the supermarket who looks really, really tired. I hold people closely and I look them in the eye because I know that we are all really quite fragile. I know that beneath our skin we are just blood and bones and beneath that, some sort of mysterious and exquisite dust.
I know that failure often happens before success and that people are failing all around me, naturally, and that some can’t see the other side yet and live with an incredible amount of pain. I can spot the bruised and weary look in their eyes because I have had it in my own. I want to eradicate their loneliness and keep everyone safe. Serve them a glass of wine in the afternoon sun and suggest a nap because the state of the world is downright harrowing and it takes a great deal of fortitude to get up and out there each and every day. At times, the weight has broken my heart, snuffed the life out of it, wrestled it, and squashed it flat as a pancake. Life, as it turns out, is expensive and exhausting.
But then...the miracle of a blossom.
The great miracle of a blossom and the thin, silk veil of a petal. The slight and sturdy veins. What beauty! What great majesty the hummingbird carries and the sparrow, the cardinal and the mean, old owl. The wet integrity of a dog’s nose and the pads of his paws. The comfort and joy as he nudges his owner and the gentle palm that comes to rest on his head.
What sweet care in the hands of good people that build, create, mend, and make do. The grace in the movements of compassion people exchange in an ordinary moment on a public street or in a private kitchen. The clear eyes that lie in a child’s face. Their small, eager hands full of sun and paint and peanut butter. Treehouses all limbs and courage, carrying them up into the sky. Yes, it is tough and ugly out there and it is also astonishingly beautiful. With this knowledge, my heart begins to peel itself from the ground and slowly look for a glass of water.
In these heavy and transformative times, I carry a handful of things to remain strong and one of them is this: I think about the women in our world who have no choice. In my heart and always in the back of my mind is the knowledge that many women have lived lives that they merely endured but were unable, for one reason or another, to thrive in. In every inch of my own life, I strive to salute them with my efforts. The thought of them has the power to dissolve any listlessness or fear. To consider my tears mere water, the better to grow my strength with. To get over myself, thin skin and all, and do something useful with my life.
So while I may be tender, I am also dedicated. I will roll myself out of bed. I will forge ahead. I will lend a hand and a voice. I will listen. I will notice moments of joy and fully inhabit them. I will look for the silver lining like I am mining for gold beneath the deepest and most abundant earth. No matter what happens next. No matter how crazy the world becomes. Because in my face I see the face of so many women and that is enough to pump new and stronger blood into this heavy heart of mine.