There are moments in life, when there is no way to describe what you are feeling, other than trying to explain what is going on with your heart. That your heart skipped a beat, or started pounding, or was fluttering like butterflies. That it crawled up into your throat. Or completely sank.
When I was younger, I trusted my heart, my intuition, that inner guiding voice. As I muddled through life, the decisions of adulthood, painful but necessary heartbreaks, it seemed harder and harder to hear my heart. The drum that it was beating to, often muffled.
But when I met my husband, my heart flipped. A couple words from his mouth, and it double flipped. I remember going to yoga, where I was supposed to be concentrating on breathing and holding postures, and all I could think about was him. My heart was definitely a-flutter. After only a few months, he asked me to move across the country with him, for a job. It seemed crazy, but I followed my heart. Things fell into place, there was flow. I got a job offer, we found a wonderful apartment on a lake, eventually we bought a house, got married. Life was not without challenges, but overall, my heart was at ease. It was comfortable in a steady, stable rhythm.
I have heard that it is important to get a physical exam after suffering a deep loss. Your body is affected. Increased blood pressure, anxiety, depression, the heart…your heart is affected. The first fissure started with the phone call from my dad, telling us that he was going to stop dialysis. Stop he did, and my heart too, for a moment. At the first grief support group I attended, when it was my turn to talk, my heart blocked my throat completely, not a single word could squeeze by. It would not let me utter the words. It chokes me up just thinking about it.
Never before have I lived from my heart, like I am living now. The core organ that keeps us going, beat by beat, we don’t pay it a lot of mind. We don’t give it a lot of thanks. But it’s got my attention. Every day. It reacts quickly, letting me know if something I am doing is good or bad for my well-being. If I need to be paying more attention, if I need to slow down. It reminds me that I am fearful of other losses, because even though wounded, I still have the full ability to love. It starts beating frighteningly fast when things cross my path that symbolize my husband, like the time I saw the owl in my back yard, or when a deer walked with me for a full block. I held my breath until he disappeared into the woods. Then the heaving sobs spilled forth. When tired, my heart closes up tightly…unyielding in its sorrow, it knows I still need to mourn, stay home, take a day off, honor my losses, respect my heart’s ache. And my heart really hurts when I read of others’ losses, hearts in grief are like kindred stars shining as hard as they can to give a little light to each other across a vast dark sky.
I can’t deny that death has rattled me, pierced my rib-cage. I find myself saying, “be still, my beating heart”, because I often feel anxious, unsteady, vulnerable and exposed. My heart dangling out there, for all to see. But I am also thankful. My parents gave me life, but it’s my heart that has been carrying on the daily work. Beating loudly, fast and furious, frightened and fearless, continuing to guide me along, through the thick of grief, the steady drum of life that I can not ignore. How can I not thank it? With every breath. Every day.