How do you trust your gut? Is our intuition right about things? What if it deceives us, what if my heart deceives me, says one thing and means another, promises I'll be okay when I'm not? What if I ache in one moment and laugh in another? And all the while I can't tell whether what I'm doing is good for my heart or terrible for it? Have you ever been afraid of breaking your own heart?
You are a dear heart. So bold and blunt. So unsure. So full of life that you can't help but let these questions tumble out of you and onto the page. You sound so much at the beginning of learning lessons about your heart, and what it can bear, and how to know that.
I've always been a little afraid of breaking my own heart. I've done it enough times now to know the feelings - a slow, steady ache that works its way up through my hip bones and my lungs and rests there, inside my ribcage. I know how my head starts to remind me of how stupid I was, how the decisions I made were my fault, how this awful twisting inside my body is the result of my own foolishness. I know how the stories start to spin around like small hurricanes and suddenly everything looks wrong, looks like it hurts, looks like it is broken.
So, dear heart. You who are bold and blunt and afraid of breaking. My only advice to you is to go slow. Do not be quick to tell yourself you know the ending to the story. Do not be quick to blame yourself for the ache. If the ache arrives, welcome it - it has something to teach you. It can soften you and make you tender. It can give you courage. You write in such dichotomies - good versus terrible, saying versus meaning, ache versus laughter.
I don't think those are ever as separate as we wish them.
Our hearts are built to hold inside them all the uncertain and the certain, the good and the terrible, the ache and the laughter. We need not tell ourselves to feel only one thing, or to banish difficult emotions when we see them coming. They, too, belong to us. I don't think we're meant to be governed by these feelings, whether easy to bear or difficult. I don't think necessarily our hearts should be dictators. If anything, they are gentle leaders, leading us out towards love and towards compassion.
I trust my gut because ultimately? Even the most agonizing experiences soften and shape us. Even the things we do not believe we can bear become a part of who we are. And we cannot know what those will be, we cannot know what will happen tomorrow or the next year or the next decade. So we must hold the future lightly, and love the present fiercely. Trust that if you are yearning for the truth and living out love, then you have nothing to fear.
I titled this column to you, "Trust the Poets" because they're the ones who teach me this lesson. They teach me how to peer inside my own heart and love what is there, whether it is easy or difficult, whether it is joy or ache or both together. I think the poets, the real ones, have always called us towards more courage when it comes to this. Courage to love fully. Courage to trust the unseen. Courage to let our hearts break and bend and expand.
Can I leave you with this poem, one that I fell in love with not too long ago? I think it will help you.
Love, all of it,
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.