I met a new friend recently. We planned to have coffee while I asked her a few questions within her expertise. Usually she charges by the hour, but offered to meet me off the clock.
It was all business at first, like clicks of a keyboard, hands working together to type some sense into life. I asked questions about mothering and she answered with depth and understanding, the openness of one whose known some pain in life.
I knew we’d share a little bit based on the types of questions I had for her, but what happened next was a rare shift in our conversation, a gift that I will remember for a long time.
We began sharing more personally about some of the hard situations in our lives; painful stories of the barest stretches we’ve walked, while weaving in our stories of faith. Before long, our standard Times New Roman conversation moved into sweeping Lucinda calligraphy.
Though I’ve learned a lot about the safety of where to rest my heart recently, I still tilt heavy on the sharing spectrum which is a grown-up way of saying that sometimes I practically bleed-out all over people at some of the most inappropriate times.
It’s really just a scavenge to find similar life form. I can stay on the slick surface with the best of ’em, making halted, chippery conversations about schedules and, well, mostly schedules but I prefer to cut right through the thin flakes of fine, busy, tired and move on to places with meaning.
Mostly, it’s a problem with my own expectations. Making a deliberate choice to stay in touch with all my junk is something I can’t not do. (I mean I have to do this or my brain will implode). Many people that I meet aren’t comfortable discussing the way life bruises us, or maybe they just don’t care to discuss those with me. Quite possibly, we’re just not meant to share on that deep of a level. In any case, most of the time I feel like I’m speaking Swahili while everyone else is speaking the King’s English and this new friend spoke fluent Swahili.
All of these things I’ve been learning about recently, made this unexpected connection shortly after Christmas one of the better gifts I received this year.
Over four glorious hours (I know, Four!) and with not one mention of the word busy, the letters of our hearts began to loop long and broad, flourishes of
Warm waves of understanding made their way down our cheeks as we shared some of the deepest parts of our stories. She underlined entire segments of my soul with compassion and we both breathed deeply of grace.
Time breathed deeply as we talked about how real life turned out so much different than we thought…. She let me hold some of her broken pieces for a few moments and then she held mine.
I think the most beautiful thing was that she didn’t try to fix my ragged edges, put them back together for the sake of what was expected in that sort of meeting.
Because of the pain that she’d walked through, that she literally walks through each day, she wasn’t afraid of the edges of my mothering or the ridges in my marriage. My disappointments weren’t too heavy for her and never once did I sense that she thought I might be inadequate or need to get myself together. She offered me a safe place for a few hours on a Saturday morning and I hope I offered the same to her.
Smooth words curved in just the right place. They swept strongly, giving courage because we shared a belief in the value of the pages left out of our stories and hope in the parts still unwritten.
And also, the shape of her heart? It’s different, or maybe just situated differently.
Most hearts are puffy at the top. They just don’t have room for the heaviness of life that can lie thick at the bottom of a soul.
I get it, I don’t want to make room for it either. I’d rather push all the disappointments and betrayals, the things that hurt the most in life, into that little point underneath the floorboards and pretend they don’t exist too.
But there’s something inside me, a search for truth maybe, or a desire to live beyond the constraining rush of life. I just can’t push all of the uncomfortable feelings down anymore.
For years, I lived with the fluffy part of my heart sitting on top. To be honest, I didn’t know the pointy places of pain at the bottom existed, not in my own life, at least. From the outside looking in, I had nothing to complain about, not really.
The brokenness in my life was present but I wasn’t able yet to pay attention. Maybe I was I was afraid of what I would learn about myself if I started to cup the pain. Maybe I didn’t know that a seasoned heart is made to shift and needs to be cradled like the first cup of morning coffee warming my hands and waking my soul while the hearts I love most still sleep.
Whatever the reason, I couldn’t get away from my own self and and had no idea where my blazing intolerance of all breathing people came from.
The slightest variation from my plans at any point in the day resulted in exaggerated, prolonged annoyance and often rage. Anxiety about what people thought of me and my preoccupation with their opinions began to turn me into someone I didn’t like. I ended up finding a group of people in another state that could help me and spent a couple of weeks there.
My time away was the beginning of a dark decade, I walked through buried and painful needs (unmet needs that I believe we all experience, by the way). I began to to figure some of that stuff out, to learn that I used my list of accomplishments to validate who I am.
As a result of deciding to open the scariest doors in my soul, I found things that surprised me about myself. I uncovered deep pockets of pride and entitlement, began to sort through their sources and begin, for the first time, to allow the Grace I believed in begin to change me.
We all walk this journey, it’s the purpose of life I think, but we have to choose to allow our hearts to be turned upside down as we go along. We have to make a deliberate choice to sit with the the painful things that we discover about ourselves and let them settle into the deepest places in our hearts and souls.
I fought it for a while (again, I think we all do) but when I slowly began to allow my heart to tip? I finally accepted it into the dark brokenness of my own life and let it begin to heal the painful things I’d experienced from the bottom on up. As I poured out some of the fluff on the top and began to be filled with understanding and compassion, with grace that runs heavy?
It changed me.
Helped me begin to express the love that I felt inside but didn’t ever seem to be capable of communicating.
For the first time, I was able to offer people around me the same Grace that I said I fiercly believ ed in. Peace began to flow into my life and my parenting. My family, and I hope others around me, began to see in me the love buried underneath all of the pain.
By learning how to rest and receive, I began to be able to pour out and fill.
My new friend and I haven’t met or spoken since. Our paths aren’t likely to cross consistently and I don’t even know if we’ll have the opportunity to meet again (though I hope we do).
She gave me a rare gift though, that day over a strong brew, the offering of an upside down heart and I won’t ever forget the healing that continued on that morning.