A Leaky Heart

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Christ / Course Ideas

I remember once when I was a boy, wondering if my knee would ever heal.  A baseball slide on hard-packed dirt had torn it open.  Then I had fallen off a bike.  Mashed it into the ground in a soccer game.  Made a heroic dive across the playground during PE.  Every few days, the same.  Finally, infection set in, and with it came the reality of an uncertain outcome.  The improvement from one day to the next was below my threshold of perceptibility, and I couldn’t help but feel I had stumbled into something well beyond my miniscule powers of making-right.  The waiting was agony.

If this had been the only issue I was managing, it wouldn’t have been too bad, but life has a way of flying into the breach like platelets into a cut.  Around the same time, I was having such a hard time at the school I was attending, that I cried to my mother when the car pulled up to the curb, and begged her not to make me get out.  It was a new school and I didn’t really have any friends, and I was bumped up a grade to boot after about six weeks of class.  Too smart for my own good.  Smaller than most.  It was an awkward age, and I had moved from a small town to a bigger city, and I couldn’t make sense of the jokes about girls and boys.  I couldn’t think my way through any of them.  I tried to laugh it off, but they saw right through me.  I was never really on my feet there.

My first day in the new grade I was escorted up the stairs and into the instructions for a multiplication test.  In the old grade we had been all about addition and subtraction.  In the new one, my first gift was one hundred and twenty seconds with which to solve thirty problems.  All the other kids had been given the chance to memorize their times tables, but all I had was this brain too smart for its own good.  I knew enough to know that multiplication meant a lot of addition, and felt obligated to do something besides sit there like a fool, so I ground my teeth and tried like hell to solve two hundred addition problems in the remaining ninety seconds.  My teacher was, I think, impressed by the valiant effort, but I was stretched tight as a drum.  I fought back tears as I stared into my chicken scratch.  I felt like I had some kind of goodness in me that mattered, but that I was hopelessly over-matched.  In other subjects, it was the same.

Sometimes lying in bed at night listening to the odd siren, I worried the Russians would launch their nukes, or that someone might grab me when I rode my bike through the park about a mile from my house where people were reputedly killed by knife fights.  One involving swords.  Laying awake in my bed, looking through the curtains of the French doors that opened from my room onto the length of the upstairs hallway, I realized that if I squinted, the light at the end of the hall would distort into a line, like a beam of light you might see coming from behind a saint in a painting.  I wondered if I could ride that light to places.  I wondered if I had discovered something unique, something that mattered.  How does my eye do that?  Maybe I can live this way, too.  Squint towards the future and have it stretch out before me like a ramp to a bright place.

My goal in the morning was just to relax and let my knee heal, not take stuff so seriously.  Then Rebecca came in with some kind of collage art shoebox textile whirly-gig ensemble that she and her graphic artist mother had made together in just one night, and I plummeted.  My goal for the day was just to get by.  To not get blown over by my thoughts.  If I just wait long enough, my knee will heal up.  And here this girl was already setting the world on fire.  I couldn’t help but ask myself: do you see what happy children accomplish?  How effortless it could be?

So much of me was plain to see even then.  Goodness, over-matched.  Somehow an outsider to my own life.  Caring, overwhelmed and uncertain.  This past month I have worked long and hard on figures, analytics, and graphics.  I have loved it, and I have found others that do, too, yet Life can still find ways to multiply excessively.  Inner seasons turn.  The tide comes in and the moon is hidden by clouds.  Later, the tide recedes, and the sky is revealed.  These times of inner witnessing have a way of opening us up.  I feel that gnawing hunger to sit alone under the night sky with Hafiz, with myself, holding onto the silence like a refugee pleading for asylum.  I know if we do, the silence between us will draw my heart out into the open, melt it into ribbons, wrap me in them, bless me top to bottom, bathe me in the sacred, show me a dimension too often curled in on itself.  My little secret is how much I care.  My secret is how much it hurts sometimes, how much we give to just occupy one transient moment, fully.  To be real enough to be swallowed whole.  To recognize the bounty we receive in witnessing just one drop of Silence.

Loving isn’t necessarily long conversations.  It sneaks up on us.  Someone we work with every day but hardly know, one day we realize, their Presence changes the tone of our existence.  It’s not always easy to look up from our lives, to let it wash past for a while like a stream through the forest.

Jesus, I ask, when will the awkwardness in my Loving disappear entirely?

He laughs.  My friend, whatever on earth are you talking about?  If you only knew…  If you only knew what I see, when I look at you…

11 Comments

  1. Silent tears. My childhood similar. Too sensitive I was told. Over and over. And yet, and yet . . . . .
    Moments of recognition of this truth makes it all perfect: “My secret is how much it hurts sometimes, how much we give to just occupy one transient moment, fully. To be real enough to be swallowed whole. To recognize the bounty we receive in witnessing just one drop of Silence.”
    Thank you as always, Alison

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    • Thank you, too, Alison. It is interesting to look back. Sometimes at night before I fall asleep I try to dredge up the earliest memory possible, just to see what pops up. It is amazing the things that I rediscover from time to time. But it’s like seeing another life… like discovering cave art. It’s familiar… but distant. We’ve always been who we really are I think. And who we are has always been precisely enough.

      Michael

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  2. This is just so poignant and beautiful, and relatable! I think the awkwardness IS the love. It is thoroughly boxed out of society, especially in school at the ages of multiplication tables, and the odd one out who cannot control it’s entrance, but rather wears his love on his sleeve, is ever so vulnerable. The vulnerability is, unfortunately, raw and unsculpted, like a beautiful block of clay, ripe with possibility but with no outward beauty yet, and the other children do see that. Now, you are sculpting, and thank goodnesss for that, for most children choose to toss their clay in the garbage, as it is not yet beautiful, and never find the tools to sculpt, never find the satisfaction in the intricacies of love or in the hard work of inner chiseling. For all of those awkward children in all of us, I thank you. The gawky, clumsy girl that I was, who knew nothing of girl/boy jokes either, who secretly still loved to play pretend outside when it was absolutely not cool, takes your hand now to go play. After we bandage up that knee. 😉

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    • I like that point of view, that the awkwardness IS the Love. I think you have the basis for a tee shirt company with that one. 🙂

      And forget the knee. Let’s walk out into the world tomorrow, knees as they are, and pretend it is the place we’ve always known we’d find one day, the one just on the far side of awkward, where we discover that when we pretend together, it is so.

      Michael

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  3. True words jump off the page and grab me – what an exquisite expression of the way life boils us down to an essence. So precious, this share, Wow! The vulnerable out-matched feeling is yours, but touches a cord that must be common for us all, though most cannot express as you have. It feels very current to me as I still thrash wildly along this divide, where one side offers withdrawal and cocooning from a world and the other side has me going out there too open, too inappropriately vulnerable – as if I imagine others operating under a different paradigm altogether. “…holding onto the silence like a refugee pleading for asylum.” so that when I choose to engage, I am flowing from a clearer spot that the rooftop and night sky offers! Squinting on into that sliver of light!

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    • Get your tickets for the light train! Reminds me of the movie K-PAX, where Kevin Spacey rides a beam of light from an advanced civilization to NYC as a walk-in. Seen it?

      I think I know what you mean about the thrashing. There is something precious inside that we feel, that is the truest feeling we’ve ever had, and we need to hold it safe from the world. But when we do, it wants to be given away to everything, and it has no thought of the world at all. It is wholly innocent. It cannot fathom being unreceived. I remember, though, being caught in this net of “others,” and how it felt. I learned mistakenly what the world “is” and who “others” “are.” And I think while we still carry old thoughts of what the world “is”, they collide with this innocence, and pretty soon someone in the crowd makes the valley girl alert, “AWWk-ward.”

      We have to venture out of the protective shell to live it, to have the experience of it, to become it. I say this as if I know what I’m doing. I’m still trying to figure out how to heal up this knee. And this heart. Hafiz made me this ointment. Says to put it on twice daily until I can’t remember anything at all but a beam of Light coming out of my chest. 🙂

      Michael

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    • ~meredith says

      Jumping in here with you, Marga (good morning!)

      Hi, Michael;
      It’s so funny you mentioned Hafiz… he’s been reminding me to be your eyes, ears, and heart while I am meditating with Mt. Shasta…
      Why, I wondered? Because you can take everyone (who reads) to the mountain, right now! Do it for everyone! Let them know you are on Pilgrimage. Tell Marga! (Fast talker, that one)
      So! As I surrender to the giant trees, the ancient mother, and bold, crashing waters of ocean baptism… I carry you guys, heart to heart. xx. Meredith

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      • I am humbled to have been carried in the holy realm of your heart, Meredith, to the mountain. I carry you, too. Hafiz is connecting the dots me thinks… weaving together a buoyant tapestry of mutual sustenance and delight. To all who pass by these parts: the light train is coming to a station near you… Say hi to the conductor for me, if you would please… 🙂

        Michael

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  4. Gracious the joy at the peeks in…into a life gift. To give so much of oneself that it helps feed the place of oneness takes courage and work toward opening. I find this so incredibly beautiful in it’s poignancy and power. It is those little foundational glimpses that have informed the surface structures visible to the eye today.

    Upon meeting men who are a challenge, I have often tried to see the boy who informed the man standing in front of me. Usually he is still there, held somewhere close in and is felt not that far under the bravado as that “refugee pleading for asylum” ( I LOVE THAT).

    To be real enough to be swallowed whole…we strip again and again and again…as touching presence changes our tone of existence. Presence that is always there just under the layers we allow.

    Thank your for peeling back and giving so much here. -x.M

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    • Maren, thanks for picking up what I was layin’ down. The boy is still in there, or maybe it is more appropriate to say that the Presence that peaked through purely into the life of the boy is still there to peak through purely into the life of the man. When the tide rises, I still retreat (like a refugee) to a raft of stillness to await the return of doves. 🙂

      Michael

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