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Friday, November 1, 2019

Пятница Ponderings: If I Only Had a Heart...

Ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate 
Пятница (PYAHT-nee-tsuh): Friday in Russian


I don't like emotional pain or feelings that can hurt and make me cry. So, I am prickly. I keep people at arms length. I have many aquaintances, but a few select close friends and even fewer who I confide in.

I cultivated this crusty, prickly exterior, almost unconsciously, because it protects my soft heart. And for a long time, I have been able to control it.

But, this past year my shell has cracked and my heart has softened and I find myself feeling so many things that I once pushed away. I cry much more easily now. I find myself having more compassion and less judgment. And I attribute it to two things.

First, we brought a beautiful puppy into our family last November. And while I love my family with everything I am, I did not anticipate how much this little creature could affect me. Cocoa herself is a bit prickly. But, she loves with her whole being. Truly.

I will fully admit that I never understood people who treated their pets as family. I do now, because I can't remember what life was like without Cocoa in it.

She greets us with wiggles and jumps and kisses. She exudes love. She makes me pause and sit and pet or snuggle. And she returns that love with no expectations, no requirements and no demands. She is pure love. She just wants food, someone to play with and someone to snuggle. Who doesn't want that?

So my prickly, crusty exterior has been softening and my heart has been bleeding through those cracks. It's inconvenient and painful sometimes, but it has also been a blessing, because letting my heart grow, has allowed me to feel more love and less judgment.

The other thing that has softened my heart and made me look at people differently is that our family is moving away from organized religion.

There are those who would say that religion is love and Jesus is love. But for me, my spiritual journey has been one of discovering love outside of religion. And for me, it is not part of a controlling, all inclusive church. I first stepped away from church earlier this year for my mental and emotional health. I was tired of never feeling like I was enough. I wasn't good enough. I didn't serve enough. I didn't give enough. When, in reality? I served and gave and did the best I could with what I had and who I was. But, it was never enough. I was always a disappointment to someone for something, including God.

I had come to find little comfort in sermons and talks from people who told me in words how I should live, but in doctrine and religious teachings told me that not everyone was deserving of that same love. I began to realize that I couldn't believe in a God who was restrictive and exclusive in how He bestowed blessings or answered prayers and that only a select few, who believed a select way, were going be happy.

So, I stopped attending and I felt no remorse and found some peace. And, I haven't stopped trying to figure out how I feel and what I think and believe. I have found myself thinking in more spiritual terms and less in religious terms. I have found myself finding joy in nature and in the people around me rather than trying to find it in a religious text or church meeting. And, as I have let go of the guilt of not doing enough, I realized I have more time for reflection and introspection. And I believe that all of us are beautiful, glorious beings with many gifts and qualities and I absolutely love seeing people in that way.

Although, I haven't yet been able to extend that love or soft heart towards insurance companies. Patients, yes. Insurance companies, no. And, I find that my heart isn't very soft when I drive, so I'm working on that. Baby steps...

But, I have also realized that love hurts, now that I can't turn away from it. It hurts to watch people or animals suffer. It hurts to watch people experience joy and heartache. But, it's also beautiful to feel. To feel love without judgment. To look at people for who they are, not how they act or what faith they profess.

Seriously, love hurts. Because of Cocoa, I now follow the animal shelter Facebook page and cry because so many puppies need homes and we can't take them, so I donate and buy supplies for them. I give my extra dollars to people on the street.

There is a man who has frequently been by the freeway offramp these last few months. Even now that it's cold and the temperatures are frigid, he's often there. There was a time when I would have driven past with no thought other than, "if you have time to stand here, you have time to look for a job". I can't do that as much any more. If I have cash, I give it to him. If I don't, I give him a smile. I don't know his story,  but he is a man with some troubles and I wish I could do more.

It's freezing outside now and I came out of our office the other day to see a grasshopper that was hurt and suffering. It couldn't fly or hop and I knew it wouldn't survive, so it was best to mercifully help it die. And I had to hold back tears while I did it. FOR AN INSECT. Really?

It was easier not to let myself feel. But, I have learned that I would rather have these experiences and discover my soft heart than keep my hardened, prickly heart and miss out on finding joy in loving others.

Thank you, Cocoa.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, love nature. When we camp for weeks in the boonies, I feel a great sense of peace. We are working hard toward the goal of buying property in the mountains. Dogs are amazing. Their influence = amazing. When our big dog died in May, my heart was broken. I still miss him SO much. Such a gentle giant full of unconditional love.