Peace Transferred

Today when we were flying back from vacation, my son leaned over to rest his head in my lap. I was reminded what a gift that is.

Many times in my life I have noticed what it does to me physically as well as emotionally when I am holding my son or a tiny baby or a pet in my lap or against my chest. A couple of things happen: when a living creature is resting on us, they are immediately entrusting themselves to our care. That sounds clinical. What I mean/feel is that they are allowing themselves to be so vulnerable, and they open their hearts to us and show us, “Here I am. Could we just be together for a few minutes? Could you hold me and protect me and look after me while we breathe together?” And not only do I feel humbled and thankful and so very connected in those moments, but I also feel empowered and called to protect and love, and suddenly my priorities are completely in order, and everything else must come second to caring for the life in my arms.

Something else that always amazes me and goes straight to my heart is how, when the person or creature relaxes into us once they feel safe, there is a peace that emanates from their body that is effortlessly transferred to us. My whole being is transformed.

I read a question in a survey recently that was trying to project what kind of future you’d have. It asked, “Are you high tech or high touch?” This reminded me of the first time I heard something like this, when Teresa Eyring, the Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group, noted that as the world grows more high tech, we crave human touch. We crave connection. We crave being present in the moment with another person. It’s definitely part of what moves me so deeply about theater and about being an actor: that shared moment in time where we are all connected and breathing the same air and going through something together. And it’s what moves me more and more each day in terms of compassion and connection and why I believe we are on the planet.

It’s kind of like the moon. I love the moon. I have several friends across the country who love the moon like I do, and invariably, on a night when the moon really moves one of us, I will text one of them with “MOON!!”, or one of them will text me. And in that moment, no matter where we are or how long it’s been since we have seen each other, we know we’re looking at the same moon and are connected and are sharing in that moment in time.

I believe there is a peace that comes when we are connected, even if it’s in an extremely difficult moment. And maybe it’s impossible to tell who initiates that peace, or maybe it is born out of the moment itself.

What I do know is that more and more I find myself saying, “We’re all in this together.” And I am really thankful for that.

Brutal Truth

Brutal Truth. That moment when Life holds a mirror up to your face and forces you to take a gritty, raw look at what you see before you. And Brutal Truth cannot be avoided or dismissed. Brutal Truth stays until you look, until you see. To me, Brutal Truth’s other name is Tough Love.

When Brutal Truth appears, I often find Shame shows up, too. The difference between these two, is, however, extreme. Shame is there to try to make us feel like we should slink away into the shadows and never show our faces again. As Brene Brown puts it, in her achingly beautiful and human way:

“Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough….Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” (The Gifts of Imperfection)

Brutal Truth is very different, though it often doesn’t feel any different from Shame. Sometimes I cannot tell them apart until I really sit with myself and realize Shame is giving me the excuse to hide. And then I see that Brutal Truth comes in peace and more importantly, comes in love. Do you know J. Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities? Her personification of these pieces of ourselves astonishes me in her accuracy and humanity. Of Truth she writes:

“Truth has been employed as a thief stealing illusions….When Truth’s fingers touch my shoulder, I hear bone touching bone….He lingers in the long pauses between the questions and the answers…Truth is willing to wait for a long time with little attention or visible encouragement. Truth is not willing to live without Love.

And when I can come to that and realize that Brutal Truth is actually genuine love, then I can start working to send Shame on its way. So I find myself back again at this core reality that if we can open our hearts, painful as it will be, we will find truth, honesty, and compassion. In this case, Brutal Truth comes only because of the need to share compassion, care, and concern. But mercy, such truths can hurt like hell and rock your world.

How does Brutal Truth bring genuine Love? As I was reading more just now, I found this. Gendler writes, “Trust is the daughter of Truth….she is the mother of Love.” Yes, there must be Trust for Brutal Truth to bring Love. Otherwise, when there is no trust and no love, THEN there is Shame. So if we can truly trust the one handing us the Brutal Truth, we will know it is offered from a place of Love.

It’s a lot. And it’s more than a lot in the moment when the truth hits. But maybe if we can open our hearts more, we can trust more, we can love more, and we can face those Brutal Truths without letting Shame in.

I’m going to try.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Melancholy and the Open Heart

When the melancholy comes, it creeps in, slowly, quietly, walking with silent footsteps on the forest floor of my heart. I have learned to spot it in my peripheral vision before it is too close, so now I know it’s coming. But I haven’t learned to detect it before it begins its quiet walk, and I haven’t figured out how to stop it.

I’m not sure I’m meant to stop it. It’s part of me. It doesn’t live with me always but rather comes to visit from time to time. It’s not malicious, but it can be scary.

I know with time it will move along, and I will be ok and feel lighter again. But it’s not like a riot in my soul* that leaves me in a new, life-filed place once the dust settles. It’s curious because unlike the soul riots which are much more violent and can shake me up inside, melancholy just comes and sits quietly next to me on the sofa. Or follows me to work. Or stands with me in line at the Post Office. And I start to feel very, very sad and unsure of just about everything. I don’t feel grounded, and I don’t know when it will pass.

I am grateful that when melancholy comes, it doesn’t completely overtake me. In fact, most people would never know what I’m feeling. But I feel it and have to work my way through it until it passes.

About a year and a half ago, I came across 2 passages that I marked with the words “when in trouble,” and more often than not, if it gets to that point with the melancholy, I remember to pull Melody Beattie’s “Journey to the Heart” off my shelf and turn to the marked pages. Tonight I was deeply impacted by a part of the first marked passage – but by some lines I had not underlined, and I could not help but smile. “Living with an open heart means we stay present for ourselves and feel as much as we can, as much as we need to.” As I type this to share here, it hits me even more: melancholy is part of it, part of this Life with an Open Heart adventure. Maybe that’s totally obvious, but it’s never been clear in quite this way to me before.

As I flip again to the second passage to see if I want to write about it here, I re-read, “Go out, and embrace your connection.” Yes. That is why I am here. Compassion, connection, an open heart, and the courage and strength to stay on the journey.

So I am extra grateful for connection and open-heartedness tonight. That’s you. And the Universe. And God. And my friend I reached out to earlier to say my heart was hurting. And the loved one I reached out to earlier to say this is where I am right now. Thank you for being here with me in this moment in time.

I’m feeling myself smile more as I write this. I think I might even share something that I love and that I feel describes me in some ways, but I don’t want it to sound arrogant, and I’m not really cool enough to share it, but I love it. I love it because everything I feel I tend to feel really deeply. And mostly that’s good, but sometimes, boy, I could stand to feel just a little less. But I wouldn’t change it about myself. I choose to believe I inherited it from my dear grandmother, this deep-feeling-heart-laid-bare-heart-on-sleeve-ness. My cousin has it, too. And my sweet son. So here it is, at the risk of sounding silly – but maybe silly is good, especially if it helps lead the way out of melancholy’s forest. Here’s to open hearts, sensitivity, deep feeling, and even dear melancholy.

from SweatpantsAndCoffee.com

from SweatpantsAndCoffee.com*

*https://dearworldhereismyheart.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/a-riot-in-my-soul/