If you had spent any amount of time with me in the past few days, you would have felt the mood surrounding me to be that of heartbreak. Deep sadness. Grief. Fear. Long, thick disappointment. Pain. Disbelief. Spurts of anger that did their best to flash brightly, only to flicker a brief instant before fizzling without fanfare, giving birth to the mother of all horrible realities: shame.
It began over the holidays, with the awful, scary emotions that stirred up from my deep without any forewarned explanation. I was in freefall mode, only these past few days realizing my heart had closed up shop on interpretations of my life that simply no longer worked. I suppose my heart knew all along, knew it in the deep interior rooms that got locked away before I was ever conscious that heart had a person living inside of it, before I ever knew she needed care, before I ever knew I had chosen not to choose her, going instead with forces outside myself that taught me to survive.
I'm older now. Now I know I have a heart and that we share a name given only to the two of us, inextricably bound forever, her and me. She has unlocked some of the interior rooms in recent years, now moves freely in and out of those rooms she has learned I am trustworthy to guard, the ones I will fight fiercely to protect and make safe because they are her sanctified abode.
But there are more rooms inside there, rooms that have long been locked and bound and strapped with heavy leather strips a stitching awl cannot sever. She is wise, that one. She learned long ago she cannot trust me with some things, that I will quickly and easily abandon her in favor of other loves like a tiny child left at the curb by a parent too preoccupied by the concerns of his or her own head, the young girl's soft, small hand reaching for the handle just as the car pulls away and speeds far, far from there, the driver's mind already racing elsewhere with no thought for what got left behind until many hours later.
I think she has learned, though, that I am learning to listen. She has seen me protect her in the main rooms, has allowed me to invite other visitors to come and spend time there, trusts that those visitors are safe and is therefore increasing her trust in me.
Perhaps that is why what happened over the holidays happened. She's learning she has a voice, learning she knows how to shout, and that now I have the ears to listen and will likely choose her over anything else if I know it is her that's doing the shouting. So, timing it just right, she let out an ear-piercing shriek that wailed and wailed and wailed for fourteen days on end. And I got it. I listened. After I tried for most of that time to drown her out. And after I recovered from the shock and temporary hearing loss.
Then began the hard work. For the first time in years, I have begun using a journal. This is our journals, hers and mine. Most times I use it to channel my own thoughts as I seek to work out this new reality; other times I hand her the pen and let her say whatever the hell she wants. Sometimes I talk directly to her. Sometimes I talk to God. Sometimes I just talk to myself. I do this several times a day, whenever the noise of my own head or the sadness of my own heart gets too loud or deep to handle it on my own. Then I go: me, and her, and God, together in that small book. It is a saving grace.
This is not an easy work, the unlocking of these new doors. I carry enough reverence for her and for those locking mechanisms to know that being invited down these hallways and anywhere near these hiding places is something to undertake with great humility. I am learning not to defend myself; she doesn't want to hear it. I am learning to listen; she's more than happy to speak if she believes I really want to hear. I am learning even greater gentleness; she will recoil and hide again if I'm not careful with my moves, and I will be left to fend again in my old devices, which have only become more solitary and suffocating since she opened this new hallway and invited me in.
Most of the time, the work of this is done in solidarity, the two of us together, alone. Other times it involves speaking her truth out loud. That is the scariest part for me, but it's also her biggest test. She watches me warily, hanging back with great hope in her huge, deep-set eyes full of such feeling and depths I don't yet know the fullness of, but they are eyes that also flicker with fear and doubt that I will actually shoulder our life out there with others who may not understand and may want me to assign my loyalty to them instead. I know each one is a test, though, thankfully, and each one I face is yet another moment of asking myself the very same question again and again: What kind of person will you choose to be, Christianne?
It's heartbreaking work, as I said at the beginning. Mostly because life with my heart in the context of other people has meant an unexpected change of seasons, perhaps permanently. It has involved speaking my heart's truth in scary, dark places to those who may not understand, who have demonstrated that they do not, in fact, understand, and I turn to see my beautiful heart racing away like a squirrel, only the flash of white on the underside of her tail the reminder of what I had promised to do but am now tempted to betray in a compromise of truth. And so I turn back again, facing the truth head-on, deep breath, no matter the pain or humiliation it causes me for all the pain and humiliation she has already suffered, no matter how many of these encounters in the world tempt me to steep myself in all those emotions I listed at the beginning of this post so that I will turn and abandon my closest joy. This is me, defending her honor. I hope to serve her well.