Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings by Edward McLachlan.
This is an illustration from a book based on a British children’s animated television program. It featured Simon’s magical chalkboard-come-true adventures. Read more about it on Burgin Streetman’s terrific blog, Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves.
I was shocked on Tuesday while packing. (We’re moving to Florida.)
This is what happened:
I found a book my daughter created and surprised me with on my 50th birthday. In it are pictures and writings celebrating my life submitted by family and friends.
Vaguely recalling the gift, I carried the book to my chair and sat and read it. Slowly and consciously. I looked at each photograph and drawing. I read each remembrance. It took about an hour.
I laughed and sobbed with joy. I felt like I was awake and alive for my own eulogy!
Here is the shocking part: I didn’t remember having ever read it. It felt brand new.
How could that be? Of course I read the book when I received it.
I realized that I did not take it in. Thirteen years ago, I was not able to feel the encouraging and nourishing messages, the kindness and love.
I’ve read what authors* write about the phenomena of not being able to take in love. To be brief, my receiver was broken.
Through self-exploration (with help from therapists and teachers), I uncovered an invisible wall around my heart. That wall made it difficult for gestures of love to penetrate. To clarify, I knew how to intellectually receive and appreciate love. I’m great at that! I didn’t know how to feel it. I was scared.
Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem* gives me insight.
His song suggests that there are already cracks in my heart (from life’s wounds) to let the light in. That light is love. I’m already honed to receive love. Those wounds have a purpose!
Inner wounds are past experiences that can block or unlock my understanding of the world, others, and myself. I want to open myself to receive because those wounds are disguised as inner growth gifts that ultimately make it possible for me to feel things, like another’s love.
So now when someone says something encouraging or nice, no deflecting. No changing the subject or minimizing the message. I pause and try to take it in. When someone gives, I can let it capture my attention. I can allow the words or actions to seep into those cracks and transform me.
There’s something that makes receiving hard.
What I love, I must be willing to let go of.
Okay, so now receiving is about being willing to feel loss? (That’s a topic I’ve written about. Often.) Yep. Letting love in holds hands with being able to let love go. In this receiving arena, I can’t have an up without a down or a right without a left. I become willing to love knowing that love inherently holds some endings. (Hello grief.)
An opportunity is at my door in this move.
Love is showing up and inviting me to let others’ presence, speech, and actions in. The good part is that my receiver is fixed. It simply needs exercise.
*Authors such as Brené Brown, Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, Harriet Lerner, and Thich Nhat Hanh offer insight into the difficulty to receive love, which also affects the depth of being able to give love.
*Leonard Cohen's lyrics to Anthem are here.