Many years ago, my Christmas holiday was interrupted by a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. On Christmas eve, I was called to assist with the birth of a calf. The mother was down, and the calf was breech. A cesarean was needed to save the life of both the calf and mother. Once an animal ‘gets down’, time is of the essence.
But this writing isn’t about time, or about calves. It is instead about something else I learned that night. I suppose I was naïve in thinking the human body is more like the board used when playing ‘Operation’ than it is a sack of potatoes. I expected everything to have its designated place, and that is true but only in a very general sense.
In order to get to the baby, we had to do a lot of moving of other things. Imagine a tub full of water balloons in various sizes, and you’ll understand what I mean. Anyone familiar with this would understand how a baby has room to grow; how a tumor has room to grow.
The body is an amazing thing in this way, and in some ways, the heart is the same. I’m not talking about the physical heart (the viscero) but rather the center, where our deepest feelings are stored. It is much like to the cigar box I had when I was young. It held my treasure, and I’m fairly certain that someone looking in that box could tell what mattered to me, could formulate some version of my story. The heart is just that, an accumulation of thoughts, emotion and feeling. And like the body, the heart is able to always make room for more.
As much as I love, I’m confident that I cannot ever be loved-up, to the point where I can’t love any more. It is my belief that the more you love, the more you love, such that the heart is forever growing larger.
But the heart can hold more than just love and pleasant memories. It can harbor bitterness, regret, resentment, and hate. In some ways, these things do to the heart what a tumor does to the body. They don’t really belong, but the heart makes room for them.
And the heart carries them. I imagine the lightness of love and kindness, and how much bitterness and regret must weigh in comparison. Forgiveness, when given, surely has almost no weight at all, but carried too long (held back), it becomes heavier and heavier, weighing us down. Like a tumor, it poisons everything we know, taking more and more of our joys, our happiness, our dreams.
Imagine my cigar box. If I insisted on keeping every rock thrown at me, in no time at all, there’d be no room for feathers.
of all I have
my joys to keep
the first to kiss
a jar of jam
a house my father owned
make my bed
of feathers cast aside
by downy flight
draw my bath
. . .