Monday, September 21, 2015

On a Mission - Week 2 - sore heart (or, what I learned from an EKG)

Well, my dears, 

This week began with a Sunday where I couldn't sleep, my heart racing and racing, that weird ache in my chest that has plagued me this summer clawing in a little deeper.  All week my lungs, or my heart, or maybe it was just a chest muscle I pulled swimming hurt, until "What a weird thing?" turned into 

"I'm sure it's nothing," turned into 

"I know Dad had a heart attack, but he wasn't young like I am,"  

into "I am still young.  And healthy really,"  

Which changed into, "Even if I really should lose some weight," 

into "No one my age has that kind of thing happen,"  

into "Right?"

And then Thursday, hope squashed down again when Fritz's interview turned out not so promising as we had built ourselves up to believe.  

Hungry, empty and aching in more senses than one, I took my sore heart to the temple to find peace and clarity and while there felt the idea come that in the scriptures I could find the path and peace I needed.  So at the cafeteria afterwards, with a steaming plate wafting out comforting aromas in front of me, I opened to this:

2 Nephi 3:13 - And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.
Which I sent with a brimming heart to Fritz and then continued to read: words that fell, each one like the rain we've been needing this hot dry summer that keeps dragging on and dragging on.   It was a rainstorm and a feast in every sense of the word -- the relief to be found in rebounding hope.

And at this very moment, a busy little man bustled up to me. For a minute I thought, 
he isn't coming to offer to take my plate to the kitchen window, is he? 
That's incredibly kind but that really wouldn't be necessary. 

And he said, "I have to tell you . . . "
And I thought, What? Do I look like his sister? Do I remind him of his mother? 
Or is he coming with that last nugget of wisdom that I need to top this off. 
And I looked up, smiling into his eyes.
And he continued, " . . . those devices aren't allowed in here."
Because, of course, I'm not poring over a book, but over my phone.
 I said, "Oh, I didn't realize. Sorry. But I was just  - "
But he turns away on his heel, not interested in my reasons or excuses.
Correct, I'll grant him, but so curt.
I try to shake it off: I can't be embarrassed by so small a man.
There's nothing to do but shrug
and laugh off such a self-important nubbins.

But then, I am embarrassed.

Three months of unemployment and worry have been daily stripping me down to my most vulnerable core.  I sit with flaming face in my hands, taking some painful comfort in imagining a dozen kinder ways he could have delivered his correction.  If it really was so necessary for him to have delivered it at all. But my heart feels frozen with shame and though I want to get up and leave, I can't make myself get up and risk the eyes of any bystanders.

And then my heart is flooded with sudden empathy for the aching heart of someone I was worried I had offended and whom I had been praying to understand.  My heart feels so wounded and I realize this may have been how my wounded friend was feeling.  But then before I know it I pass beyond that moment of grace and I am angry, like a lava stream.  I'm going to get myself up and go see if I can run into that little dribble and if I do I'll say something that cuts him to the heart, that breaks him open so he feels more compassion, too.

I don't see the little fellow anywhere on my way out, though I look sharply in the faces of any number of startled little men. Heading out through the foyer, my heart is full of fire instead of despair, which at least is a change from the way I had felt coming in, at least anger has got me moving again.

But then sitting by the door, a tiny woman, frail, with long white hair, seems to see something of my trouble in my face and struggles to her feet at my approach. She reaches out awkwardly with a bent and knotted hand, smiling up into my face, saying, "Thank you. Thank you, for coming," her face concerned and gentle.

The utter sweetness of her tired old face and the humble kindness of her wrecked hand reaching for my shoulder, undoes me, melts me down.  By the time I get home and tell the whole story to my sister, we're both laughing.

And then later that evening, by heaven's lucky chance, I happen upon this:

“Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.”  - Joseph Smith
Oh, ain't it the truth?  And now if I can only remember this just as vividly when I am dishing out and not just on the receiving end.

"A very interesting quote you posted," a friend responds the next day. "Brings up lots of thoughts and feelings... hope you are ok.  "

When I tell her the story, she sympathizes: " ...when we are vulnerable, it doesn't take much to wound us or to make it a grievous injury. I'm a bit jealous that you can recognize humble kindness because I always attach a motive when someone offers it to me."

"I'm willing to take sunshine however it comes," I type back. "My feeling about motives is they're such a mixed bag anyway.  Like Eyring says: 'We do not know the hearts of those who offend us. Nor do we know all the sources of our own anger and hurt.' That's been my mantra for years and a good one to keep reminding myself of today."

"Exactly!" she exclaims.  "We don't know anyone's heart, least of all our own. Knowing your heart is probably mortality's greatest challenge."

But then I wonder, how well do I know my own heart?

Well, I've had it examined.  That's how the week ended.  I went out walking with my usual Saturday morning buddy and when my heart did its war dance, she wouldn't listen to my, "Oh, it's just nothing," but bundled me into her car and took me to the clinic for a EKG.  Urgent Care rushed me in with no waiting.  And I lay for a long peaceful hour in a quiet peaceful room hooked up to monitors while my heart fluttered and wrung.   And then calmed.  

And then they told me I was fine.  No cardiac enzymes at all.
It was just nothing.

Just stress.
Surprise, surprise.

But the care of my friends, the gentleness of the staff at the clinic reminded me that all along, the whole summer and even now, really . . .    I. Am. Fine. 

I'm fine.  I have been fine.  I will be fine.  And next week will be better than this last.  My troubled heart will find peace again.  Maybe especially because I'm carrying with me now the memory of that bent and aged lady who rose on trembling legs to give from weakness the strength my sore heart needed.

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