“Hearts set about finding other hearts the moment they are born, and between them, they weave nets so frightfully strong and tight that you end up bound forever in hopeless knots, even to the shadow of a beast you knew and loved long ago.”
Early last week, we had our first snow of the year. Unlike most years, this snow left us with a lasting layer of white on the world instead of flurrying down and melting away, and it felt unfathomably abrupt. Just a few days before, it was warm enough for t-shirts.
It's been an abrupt kind of year. A lot of things out in the world have felt like the ground disappearing from beneath our feet just when we needed a stable place to stand, and it's been hard. We have all struggled to hold onto our connections this year, and a fair bit of suffering has come about in consequence. We haven't gotten far enough into it to call it "aftermath" yet, but I suspect the fallout period isn't going to be much fun, either. Many things have changed in ways that make it difficult to know how to move forward. Paradigms have shifted.
I expect, though I can't be sure, that everyone who reads this is thinking of a different thing. That thing, that moment, that brings out your petulant toddler heart, the one that plants her feet and folds her arms and pouts because she does not want to do that. I don't wanna be here! She doesn't want to be fair, she doesn't want to be considerate, she doesn't want to be reasonable. She is hurt and angry, and because she doesn't know how to heal her own heart, she does not want to give up the ground her tiny feet are holding onto. She wants to stand there and yell until whoever hurt her understands her hurt and repairs the damage they've done.
My own tiny, stubborn toddler heart has been making herself known. She is tired and sad and not sure how to move forward. She is afraid of making peace because it might mean losing this one small bit of ground she can finally claim as her own, and so when someone makes an entirely reasonable suggestion, she stomps her foot and scowls. I have tried to soothe her. I have tried to reason with her. I have tried, but like most toddlers, she's not quite ready for reason, and isn't sure she wants to be soothed. She wants, finally, to stand her ground, and this, too, is learning.
Trouble is, even healed hurts sometimes ache. Scar tissue is not the same as tissue that has never been harmed. Toddlers don't always know the difference, because all hurts are right now. And as Madeleine L'Engle said, "I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be." Our adult hearts are made up of our toddler hearts, our teenage hearts, our twenty-year-old hearts, and one of the challenges of my own relatively young adulthood has been honoring those hearts without letting them dictate who I will be forever. I can be all of them, and I can add more. It's the wonderful thing about hearts.
So I will honor my tiny, stubborn toddler heart. I will hold her close and try to ease her hurt. I will protect her from the things that have done her harm, because that is part of the honoring, but I will not let her rule me. I will not let her make me unkind, but I will also not let her be hurt again.
The hard part, of course, is finding the balance, because she's still standing there stomping her foot, certain she's right. The struggle of the moment, the week, the year, is to find the place to stand where I can honor all the people I am without sacrificing who I want to be to the people who matter to me. To be unashamed of who I am while being aware and cautious of the consequences of what I do. To recognize the tiny toddler hearts I've hurt along the way, and be careful and caring toward them, as well. I suspect, when we are all dealing with our tiny toddler hearts, that this is the challenge for most people. Be cautious. Be kind. Do this for both yourself and everybody else. Find the balance.
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