Yesterday was another ‘first’ of tough days because it was Emilia’s birthday. We both missed Richard fiercely; me, the co-parent of this first-born daughter; her, the father of her life. Emilia looked up his birthday email to her from last year, when he was already very compromised in comprehension and focus. He was in denial about the reality of his losses and wasn’t able to process in rational ways. He didn’t know that he was three months away from death. But his email was crystal clear about how much he loved her on so many levels. It made us both weepy to reread his sweet words of love.

I slept better last night after a day that became too busy for me to handle gracefully. I got 6 hours in a row! which was a minor miracle after a week of choppy dozing that passed for a night’s sleep. Pushing myself onto a hamster wheel of unending practical accomplishments, I felt pressed for time yesterday, determining that I had to race endlessly on. Which of course, I cannot do well. I summoned old habits that have apparently not died off from lack of use, as my body/energy continues to fail. I easily summoned that anxious, pushy Judi who I have not revisited for some time. I claim her as my little sister, giving her loving boundaries. She was dragging me along behind her on a long rope of fear, afraid to stop and feel sorrow. Finally, her exhausted little fists unclenched, letting the burden go.

I am learning to tolerate my breaking heart though I still construct sturdy dams against the pain. The pressure builds, my defenses collapse, and finally I overflow with tears. Great emotion pours out. I find myself open to more love both entering in and shining out. I am awash in love. This is a gift of grief. Death and loss break our hearts open over and over again until we accept that this is essential to living the fullness of human experience. No wonder we fear death. Each piece of defense crumbles away until our very identity is subsumed, while our hearts remain wide open. Recognizing this cycle, and allowing it to run its course, is something I am gaining some conscious control over; death defies any control.

If I insist that there must be a way to cut off this painful half of being human, I create more suffering. I suffer “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as a woman who is cleaved from her real being. This role eventually becomes too heavy to hold; the burden unbearable. I crave the refuge and relief that comes from being whole again. I see more clearly that this is a drama co-authored by me.

There are more and more times when I know I am the author, the actor, and the unchanging stage upon which the play is enacted. There is a new self-abiding that I repeatedly lose, but find, and am found by, in intimate moments of awareness. It arises not because I am trying to escape the pain, but because I am learning to unlock the door and put out a welcome mat for it instead.

Many upcoming rituals and holidays will celebrate the return of light to our corner of the darkening earth. The vast cosmic dance toward and away from the sun echoes the drama of humanity. We swing towards and away from the light we crave and the black empty space we so fear. Seven billion of us co-create and co-author this miracle of the world we inhabit. Seven billion of us long for “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”* May we find the wholeness that we already are, in seven billion moments of the infinite now.

*Philippians 4:7

One thought on “Seven Billion Hearts

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