Being a bit of a neatnik, I am bothered by stacks of anything, laundry, newspaper, dishes. Even the neatest and most organized stacks eventually get on my nerves. These piles are just the last stop before finding a place in a drawer, a closest, the garage, a new home, or in some cases, the garbage. Mounting stacks generally mean unfinished business. I’ve ignored the growing piles of books and journals on my dresser and two night stands all summer. I tried to make them look decorative with creative and thoughtful placement, but now they need my attention, time to purge.
I begin to peruse the books, separating those I have finished from the ones I have not. Books I have read I pass on to friends. Some make their way downstairs into the living room on an actual bookshelf, while others go in my car so I remember to give them away. A few books are half read, and some barely started. I vow to finish all of them before I open one more book; they remain neatly on my nightstand, works in progress. I finish that task quickly and am pleasantly surprised by the number of books I have read over what seemed to be the shortest summer in history.
Tackling my journals is a tougher job. At first I skim my writing, some of it from nearly eight years ago, a daily accounting of what was on my mind. As familiar themes emerge, I decide to read them in chronological order, word for word, something I have not done since the day I wrote them. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I am surprised that life and my struggles have not changed much over the years. I fretted and worried about my kids, wrote about regret and longed for lasting love. Through my writing I searched for answers, but found none. Damn. I have been ruminating over the same shit for years.
I get a sick feeling in my gut and my heart sinks as I think about all the wasted time, but I don’t let myself sink, I keep reading. There are apologies written, but never spoken, promises made and not kept, my heart broken and not mended, a lot of baggage, dead weight on my soul. I tear out and shred most of the pages, those filled with despair and sadness, those with no solutions, no answers, just a lot of vomit on a page. One journal is dedicated to therapy and homework assignments. Ugh! That was awful to revisit. I won’t lie, if I suddenly drop dead, I’m totally fine with what I have left in print. I keep the pages that seem hopeful, and definitely less incriminating. I save the best for last, a tiny journal devoted to writing only about little experiences that brought me great happiness. It’s my favorite. I read it twice.
The purge feels good and I believe the words that remain are a more accurate depiction of me today, hopeful and changed. But, I want the purge to change my life, I want an epiphany, a big bang, an ah-ha, anything. Instead, they feel like words stolen from inspirational quotes, less about action, movement, and real change. I feel stuck.
Days later, I attend a Fire Circle. The setting is identical to our gathering last month, enchanting. But this time, I am agitated, resistant; the day’s events have me feeling as though I have not made an ounce of progress. Again, I feel stuck. I look forward to the rising full moon and saying good-bye to all that keeps me from living my full potential. Our beautiful Ayurvedic Healer, Carmen, leads our group in meditation. She struggles to focus as she is distracted and interrupted by spirits and guides, anxious to deliver messages. While we all want to know who the spirits are, we agree to finish the meditation first.
Already, I am relaxed. As I meditate, I search for answers, what behaviors and old patterns must I unload to move on, what am I missing? I scribble some notes about my fears, but I cannot seem to hit the nail on the head.
I am still writing notes when Carmen begins to share messages from the guides. I am fascinated by her gift. For just a moment, I am lost in my thoughts and suddenly realize Carmen is talking to me, Your heart is outside of your body. Her hands reach toward me and then she pulls them toward her own heart, her expression so sad, You need to get your heart back into your body. You are keeping it out of your body; trying to protect it . . . something harsh has happened . . . your heart needs to come back inside your body. I hear crying, sobbing really, and all at once I am aware that I am crying, hard, my face wet with tears and I cannot seem to stop. I am comforted by friends, and Carmen continues to share messages.
We take a short break, enough time to blow my snotty nose, compose myself, and make my way to the fire pit. We gather round and make a circle. Each one of says a few words about what we will leave burning in the fire tonight, both literally and figuratively. Finally, It is my turn, I have spent the last year doing a lot of personal work, yoga, meditation, prayer, practicing gratitude and grace every day, learning to say “no” and good-bye to old patterns and bad habits, setting boundaries, searching for happiness, a little joy, and peace. After a year, I feel frustrated and stuck, two steps forward, and three steps back. Then tonight . . . to hear that my heart is outside of my body . . . well it made perfect sense. All of my hard work means nothing if my heart is not included in the journey.
There is applause . . . seriously . . . I smile and toss my words into the fire . . . the purge is complete. .
I see now that I worked so hard to protect my heart from pain that I shielded it from all that was good as well, mostly receiving love, from my friends, my family . . . and me. This past year, I put my head in charge because my heart had failed me so often.
It’s time to forgive my heart . . . time to forgive myself.