The other day I said to my husband Nick, “I feel like there’s a twinkle light in my heart that isn’t turned on.”
He laughed at me for about ten minutes, and when he recovered, he asked me why.
I didn’t have a good answer. We’re doing all the holiday things; the tree is up; the presents are purchased; stockings are hung. But something in me isn’t feeling the same glowy cozy feelings I usually feel this time of year.
And I want to feel them! Oh, I want them BAD.
So I rustled around inside myself for a while, looking for the answer. It was a lot like rustling around a big handbag belonging to a mom with many children: I pulled out some hopes and fears, some diapers and candy canes, the odd sock and a squished granola bar. And as I pulled out all these pieces of my heart and examined them, I realized something.
In order for me to feel the fuzzy cozy glowy feelings I want, first I have to feel utter heartbreak.
Well that was not good news. Not good news at all.
No, I don’t want heartbreak, I want candlelight and mistletoe and solstice rituals and lighting the Hanukkah candles!
But in order to have those things, first I was going to have to let my heart crack.
You see, I could feel that I had installed a little plastic membrane around my heart to hold it together. This is a necessary move sometimes, because the world is so hard and terrible sometimes that in order to walk around and feed our kids and remember to put pants on, we have to instruct our heart that it simply cannot break– not just this second, not for at least ten minutes. But I had put on that protective membrane for an hour… and then forgotten to take it off.
And so there was a barrier between me and my feelings.
That brittle membrane that made me feel like I could keep my shit together was also keeping out the joy. There was the joy, right there, twinkling all around my little grinchy heart, but it couldn’t trickle all the way down into the insides.
Reader, I did what I had to do.
I watched Little Women is what I did. The Susan Sarandon one, with my oldest daughter, and we both cried so hard we shook the couch.
And don’t you know, all those tears melted away that hard membrane?
Now I’m walking around all tender and new, and I’ve gotta tell you, Instagram has already broken my heart 12 times before 9am, and Facebook just about finished it off again this afternoon. I cried about the money Glennon Doyle’s Compassion Collective raised for safe houses for opioid-addicted moms and babies. I cried about the 11-year-old girl handcuffed by police officers. I cried for the 8-year-old who made his way solo across a war-torn land, made it to a refugee camp, and told his parents back home not to worry, it had all gone just fine, because he didn’t want to worry them.
This world. I tell you what, it will absolutely shred your heart.
But what I had forgotten was that a shredded heart is also an open heart. I forgot that my heart would rather be shredded than hermetically sealed.
Shredded it can DO. Tears it can HANDLE. It just keeps pumping more love through itself, healing itself right back up.
And behind all those tears is the glow I’m longing for.
It comes THROUGH the tears.
This is the deeper magic most people forget about. I forgot it too for a moment.
Go ahead. Let the world break your heart. Let the flames of fury roar out your ears. Those intense feelings don’t make you weak, they make you awake. Let yourself cry, let yourself rage, go ahead and feel the suffering, but let it move through you and come out of you as some sort of helpful action.
The things I can do are small. But the doing of them heals me.
We can take food to our local food bank, give money to organizations that effectively do the work in the world we wish we could do ourselves, or invite over a lonely neighbor. We can buy gifts and books from truth-telling artists and support other makers. We can call our elected officials. We can tell our truth and listen to others’ truths.
Small actions, yes. Ridiculously small. But a million small actions add up.
So add yours to those millions.
Don’t be afraid to let your heart go ahead and break. Your heartbreak will show you where your energy wants to flow. It’s showing you the places where you can be useful, where your heart can meet up with the world’s need.
I know it’s a busy season. I know you’ve got a million things to do. That’s ok. Do what you can right now, and think about what else you can do in 2018. Don’t do it out of guilt. Do it because it’s how we heal our hearts, again and again.
Remember that small is powerful. Remember that one person can make a huge difference, at least to one other person. Remember that together our small actions make us a mighty force to be reckoned with.
My little twinkle light is back on, dearheart. It might be tiny, and so might yours, but when we add all ours together, they shine like motherfuckers.
And with that holy sentiment, I wish you and yours and very merry holiday season. Let’s shine like mofos. Twinkle twinkle, dearheart.
P.S. Have you joined the Wise Women Book CLUB?!?!?! I just finished reading the delightful novel Umami by Laia Jufresa, and next on my list isThe Power by Naomi Alderman. What’s on your list? Come join us (it’s free!) HERE— or put your name and email in the boxes below– and tell me what you’re reading!