Friday, December 17, 2010

The Deeper Why of Our Hearts

Sometimes I read things and my heart aches that the Internet does not allow for a greater connection with strangers who unknowingly or otherwise speak out their hearts.  Today, I read two articles, one of which discussed the loss that phantom parents discover when at 44, they are told that they cannot bear children and the biological window no longer exists; and that the pill which kept them "safe" now has left them with a stack of accomplishments that do not include the title "Mom." Then I read a piece by Rachel Campos Duffy on Parent Dish about what she wished she had said when Barbara Walters interviewed her on THE VIEW and asked "Did you ever think, 'I wish I had a career and I didn't have six kids?"  It was a loaded question.

Now the Texan in me flared a bit and I recalled a friend who said back when I was a teacher, "My parents had too many kids." about her family.  Admittedly, I was a zealous and undiplomatic 24 year old and went for the jugular, "Which sibling do you think shouldn't have been born?  Because that's what you are saying SHOULD have happened."  She was shocked and then stammered, "I mean, it was hard."  I agreed, it sounded difficult and this was back before I had any, but the answer stuck for her and for me. She suddenly held the thought of her whole family in a different light.   20 years later, her face and that moment remain sketched in my head and came back right with that question.   I didn't know the deeper WHY I was articulating about my own life; indeed I would have been terrified if I had known, I only knew what I knew, she loved her brothers and sisters more than anything, she just wanted more because she wasn't feeling very special that day.

So now I have my own reversion of what I wish I'd said then but lacked in tact or wisdom or experience; because it was rough.  I wince at it today.   What you think you KNOW at 20, is not what you MIGHT think at 30 or 40 or whatever age, and none of it may be what your heart actually knows.  What you feel about your past, about your present, about your parents, about your future, is not stone. We do not always understand the deeper WHYs of our lives.

To exist is to think that you have an understanding of how you will always be, but we also know from simply the process of life, that our lives can change, can turn, can be transformed in an instant, via tragedy, love, an epiphany, inspiration, a teacher, a friend, a need that we see that must be met. For the shepherds; there was this star in the sky.  For the Kings, they had been following the heavens and so saw it, but the journey there was more than they expected; and the vision not to return to Herod and willingness to trust that vision after seeing the Christ Child, must have been an act of real courage; to rely not on charts and maps and books and knowledge, but the deeper whys of their hearts. 

It's a hard lesson to accept, whether 20 or 44 or 60 or 80, we cannot know what we do not know; and we cannot know what we have not glimpsed or experienced. Personally, I find I must relearn it on a daily basis, but my children are good educators on that point!   They are always asking Why and they are always teaching me Why.

We only know what we have learned, what we want and what we feel; and that learning is ongoing. Our wants change more often than we suspect or are willing to admit, and our feelings are more transitory than we imagine; what makes us steady is our understanding of those feelings, of those wants and the WHY behind them; and the ethics/morals/scruples that reign them in and allow our selves to be fixed like stars in the heaven, that reveal to others who we really are.  Our deeper hearts GET the WHY of ourselves, even if the surface areas of our brains and hearts do not. Most of us are in that town of Bethlehem living our lives with our doors shut, not knowing that in a manger if we just looked outside, is the Christ child waiting to be adored.

Like the woman asked by Barbara about the road she didn't take, do I ever wish I got the degree?  Do I wish it were done?  Not at the expense of even one less seat at the table.  The Deeper Whys of these people require greater focus and attention than any Ph.D.  I have some degrees and you know what I do with them?  I dust them.   The insides of those snug homes that didn't host the Holy family needed dusting too; but the stable like Mary's heart, remained open. 

The lesson of true permanence in life, is love.   Everything else gathers dust; the accomplishment is made, the case is closed, the book ends, the race is finished; but relationships like memories and stories resonate over generations. Thus I repeat stories and phrases and vignettes told to me that my grand parents lived or told. I remember truths that have been shared and retaught and retaught and retaught for each generation, so that the faith life becomes deeper than the marrow of one's bones; across centuries and generations and the blindness of any one individual within the process of coping with being. The shepherds told their wives, the kings told their court and family; and the story of that first Christmas is remembered and celebrated and relived every year.  The memories generated each year will be to someone as clear as the moment they were created; just like the conversation.  No dusting necessary. 
Love changes life, people change our lives, relationship cannot help but alter our perceptions and understandings and worldview. The trick I hope the women who mourn what they do not have or that discover what they have is less than they wanted even though they KNEW at the time, is to start today being willing to be altered by others; to allow the deeper WHYS of themselves to be explored. Whether we get to the manger by coming in from tending sheep or years of scanning and tracking the stars is largely irrelevant; the important thing is to look out, see the star, hear the angels singing and go out of our snug homes, our safe places, our controlled worlds, and allow the Holy Family to transform everything.  
Happy Third week of Advent!

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