Pieces of Heart

Explosion of planet or star

I think about a heart breaking. Where do the pieces go? Are they absorbed into the bloodstream? Fall to the soles of my feet? Turn to dust and get carried away on the wind?

I think a broken heart – really broken and crushed – shatters and is flung into the world. That is why we feel so lost, abandoned, displaced from the earth. We carry a star in our chests, and when it goes supernova there is no way to recapture it all.

But then time passes. Some things change. We cobble together the remnants that we can find and press them together so we can go on. Yet, pieces are missing. They are too far away to reach, to even be seen. And we think they are lost.

My gift recently was rediscovering a friend – a significant piece of my heart that I thought was gone forever. Turns out, it had just gone to California. She’s been around the world, changed her name, dyed her hair, pierced her face, gone back to school, had a kid, and lived 20 years away from me. And she is just the same. Just as dear and intelligent and thoughtful and kind. Actually, no. She is more so.

I had gotten used to the vacancy in my heart, the missing piece. It’s certainly not the only one. But it felt so good to have it back again. It blended seamlessly with the heart I have now, even spreading to some of the more brittle parts and strengthening them. We had one day to catch up on 20 years. But balm is like that. You put it on once and it keeps working long after.

A phoenix rising from the ashes of its old life is beautiful and inspiring. But I am no phoenix. I am old and new, cracked and mended, gathering the pieces of heart that I have missed. I am not the phoenix. I am the one who watches the phoenix rise, and I smile from my place on the ground. The phoenix flies for me.

12 Ways to Keep Your Peace

I have some annoying neighbors who play an outdoor radio seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, at full volume. I can hear it through my bedroom walls. My daughter hears it through her noise-cancelling headphones while she tries to do homework. We’ve started to avoid using the sunroom or front porch. After a year of this shocking disregard for others, it has become a daily challenge to keep my home the haven of calm and peace that I have tried to cultivate. It produces a kind of constant tension – much like recent national events.

It seems that everyone is in a turmoil. The volume has been turned up and left on. The political climate and recent events have everyone on an adrenaline roller coaster, with many of us feeling jittery and wishing for a quiet space to collect ourselves. Frankly, I’m exhausted. I don’t care where you stand on current events, you have got to be feeling distressed about some part of it. I’m not here to debate for a particular side – in fact, I’m politically neutral – but the air that has permeated our culture affects us all.

I’ve been wondering why I continue to feel this way, and how I can return to a calmer version of myself.

There are numerous reasons for our current state, but here’s one that seems especially applicable. David Brooks, political pundit and author of THE ROAD TO CHARACTER, recently stated in an interview that he believes the media has made politics into a team sport, with citizens rooting for “my” side vs. the “other” side. Yet, government is not a sports league with winners and losers and scorecards (although the media presents it as such). He posits that society has become more interested in seeing their team “win” than in problem solving.

He also believes that for most people, politics have replaced morality. If a thing is politically acceptable, then it no longer matters if it is morally or ethically right. This means that no person can truly feel 100% affiliation with a party or person, because no one can admit that all political choices are also morally and ethically correct. This creates contradiction within the individual, which results in anger, resentment, fear, depression, and a host of other emotions. Which makes them act out, or be defensive, or hide, or whatever. I believe this helps me, at least, to put the world’s (and some acquaintances’) behaviors and point of view into perspective. We are seeing internal conflict projected outwardly.

For the person (like myself) who maintains Christian neutrality, I came across these interesting questions that I leave here purely for reflection:

  •   As a citizen of God’s kingdom, if I am not upset by the politics in Spain or Greece or Indonesia, why would I be invested in the politics of this country?
  •  If the end has already been determined, then God is not wringing his hands in anxiety over the affairs of the world. Why should I?

I also remembered a favorite quote attributed to just about everybody, but featured to good effect in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:

Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end.

But until the end, how do we maintain a sense of peace, hope, and happiness while the neighbors are blasting their stereo at full volume? Here’s 12 Ways to Keep Your Peace that I am going to implement today:

12 Ways to Keep Your Peace

  1. Avoid news outlets and social media. These are a source of anxiety. When you want to catch up on world events, choose an appropriate method.
  2. When researching, consider only trusted, unbiased, and whenever possible, primary sources for information. If the source proclaims to be trustworthy and unbiased, you should triple-check this claim.
  3. Focus on positive, spiritual, nature-centered, and local/family truths. Also, being mindful of which things you have control over (and which you do not) can be helpful.
  4. Pursue a calm spirit.
  5. Spend more time in today than you do in the future or the past. You can only be in today. The past is gone, and the future unknowable.
  6. Return to (or increase time in) something you enjoy, a hobby, or art.
  7. Go to bed early. Your brain needs a break.
  8. Get some exercise. Your body needs to release some tension.
  9. Make a list. It relieves the pressure of carrying things in your head.
  10. Say no. You need more time to reflect and re-center. Accepting more noise and busy-ness in your life is counter-productive to the goal of regaining your peace.
  11. Be still. Take a nap, go for a walk in nature with no headphones, meditate, breathe.
  12. Break out of the negative emotional loop of others by countering with the opposite emotion. The opposite of hate is love. The opposite of anger is compassion. The opposite of despair is hope. Identify the negativity you encounter and consciously exercise its opposite.

Here’s a more attractive reminder I made for myself below.  I hope you can keep your peace, and if you have another method I haven’t listed here, please share it!

12-ways-to-keep-your-peace

Living On Purpose

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A lot has been said about “living intentionally”. Basically, you consider your choices and make the right ones for you based on how it impacts your quality of life. You don’t allow “accidents” to derail your life plans. You strive to live in the moment. There’s some other hippie-type stuff in there, but the big part of living intentionally – or what I prefer to think of as living on purpose – consists of one little word.

No.

We’re trained to think of “No” as a bad word, a negative response, a rejection of who we are or what we want. But if you are making goals, or processing grief, or just overwhelmed with life’s options, it’s sometimes easier to define what we don’t want than what we do want.

Society pressures us to say yes all the time. Yes, I’ll work late. Yes, I’ll pick up your kids…again. Yes, you can go ahead even though I’ve been waiting here for an hour and a half. Yes, I’ll buy that gadget because it’s late at night and I’m lonely and I really think I need an automatic grape peeling machine.

We have to stop thinking about Yes in terms of money or feelings or even time. Saying “Yes” costs us in something far greater – energy. It takes energy to work the extra hours, take the long way home, wait in line needlessly, talk to salesmen. And spending your energy means that you won’t have the time or will power later to do the things you need to do.

You’re used to Time being finite. We all get the same 24 hours in a day. But what about Energy? That’s finite, too. It runs out. We get tired, used up, burned out. You can always make more money. The time will reset itself tomorrow. But energy is a hard-won commodity we shouldn’t part with so easily.

Saying “No” to non-essential things frees up your mental focus for the things that matter. It puts the burden of making everybody happy on someone else. It forces you to adhere to your goals and ignore the never-ending hype of society that who we are and what we do is not enough.

No is a powerful word. “No” isn’t being mean. It’s living with intention, on purpose, with choice. It doesn’t require an explanation, although we often feel guilted into providing one.

Learn to use “No,” as a complete sentence.