Something You Need To Know About Living With an Open Heart

 best accessories: my handmade vintage button jewelry, fresh flowers, and an open, loving heart.
Hello Beautiful,

Something You Need To Know About Living With an Open Heart:
Expect to be uncomfortable.
Expect, even, to be in pain.

Something else you need to know:
This doesn't need to be a problem.

Ten years ago I fulfilled a lifelong dream and went to live and study art in Florence for a season. That city is one of the great loves of my life, and I was breathing joy every day. But: cobblestone streets+new Italian shoes+walking everywhere=constantly sore feet. My feet were relentlessly sore, they were bruised and blistered, they just always hurt.

One morning I was standing in an empty church admiring (read: getting completely ecstatically lost in) the frescoes. It was all so perfectly beautiful; the nearly physical ecstasy of being with that art, the smell of dust, incense, and old stone mingling with my tuberose perfume, the feel of the cool stony air on my sunwarmed skin, it was one of so many perfect moments I treasured during that time - but my feet were making me miserable. My feet were literally throbbing. My feet were raw. My feet were ruining everything.

It was getting to the point where that whole summer was going to be about my miserable feet; it was going to be about how this stupid, mundane but relentless pain spoiled my dream. That was going to be my story.  But something stubborn and loving kicked in for me standing in that church...

NO, I thought, No. This is my dream, but it's also real life, which means there's discomfort. It's not perfect like a daydream. It's more, it's better, because it's real

And in the real version, there's pain. And I have a choice. I can fight the pain, separate it out from the rest of the experience, try to ignore it, spend tons of energy trying to fix it. I can allow my self-pity to dominate, I can resist the pain, and I can miss everything else about this experience by that obsessing, resisting, fighting, and fixing.

I can roll it in with the rest of the experience. 
Not in a grin and bear the one bad thing kind of way, but in a way that acknowledges that every ingredient in the recipe is essential. The warm sun. The cool church. The paintings. My ecstasy. My perfume. My sore feet. It's all one experience, each part is essential, and  
I can love the whole experience, not just the parts that don't hurt.

From that moment on, when my pain threatened to make me miserable while eating gelato on the street or climbing the hills for an amazing view of the city or sitting in the Opera in high heels or...

I just took a deep breath and reminded myself this pain is part of the whole experience. I love the whole experience. I accept the whole experience.  This sounds so simple - and I guess it is - but it is a formula that worked beautifully for me.  My pain didn't go away, but my misery did.

The glories of Florence became the perfect laboratory for this experiment in living whole, in living acceptance - the ecstasies were rare enough, the pain was mild enough, my senses were heightened enough, and I was so stubbornly determined to experience the joy - this allowed me to learn the lesson well:  
I can love the whole experience, not just the parts that don't hurt.

outside the Church of the Sore Feet
I learned it so well that I was able to bring it back into my mundane non-Italian life where I may not have great art and gelato every day, where the potential ectstasies are sometimes a little less obvious, and where the pain can be a lot worse than the pain of raw blisters. 

But the truth is, every moment of every day can be like that perfect moment in that Florentine church, if I allow my heart to be open, if  I accept the wholeness of the situation, if I allow each ingredient of the moment to blend, and if I don't try to separate the pain from all the rest of it.

That tuberose scented moment has become a touchstone for me, the memory has a soft sheen from being taken out and lovingly used so often. When the pain threatens to ruin things, when the self-pity threatens to engulf me, I go back there and breathe in the stony air of that sacred place, and I remember: 

Roll it all together. Be in the the wholeness of the experience. Let the joy live side by side with the pain, creating that complex blending of feelings that characterize a fully lived life. 

When have you had the opportunity to roll it all together? How do you live a joyful life with pain? Or a painful life with joy? What are your touchstones of wholeness?

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...