#11 A Heavy Heart
She was crying in the change room next to me at the radiation treatment center. It was not a quiet weeping, but a heavy, infectious sobbing that crawled inside me.
I didn’t see her. I didnâ€™t talk to her. But I imagined what she might be experiencing. Maybe she’d just learned of her diagnosis. Or, maybe the treatment was taking its toll on her. Possibly, she was lamenting the sudden life-altering changes that accompany cancer. I projected other fears and feelings Iâ€™ve experienced during these last few months to her situation as I leaned against the wall that divided us.
Standing there, I felt her heaviness. And in it, I felt mine.
Heaviness, not only at my situation, but with hers and those who share radiation treatment with the two of us every day. And as I paused before I exited the change room, I thought of so many others who are also carrying a burdensome load.
Last week an industry colleague Iâ€™ve known for many years passed. His advanced Stage 4 liver cancer was discovered just a few months ago. A terrible loss. But along with that, my heart hurts for his love, best friend and soulmate. I feel and sense her deep, overwhelming sadness.
I think of others Iâ€™ve talked with and emailed in the last few weeksâ€“each struggling with what life has handed them. I envision the strain they face. And, itâ€™s probable, outside of my awareness, that you too might be fighting a great battle.
As a result, my heart is heavy today.
In these situations my tendency is to switch my attention to things that make me feel better. Iâ€™ve got a repertoire of positive, motivational and inspirational messages that I can repeat to myself to quickly cover over the heaviness.
Or, I can get lost in my Facebook feed, my email inbox or other self-soothing distractions like Netflix, my never-ending to-do list or even reading to keep from really feeling these things. Iâ€™m adept at fending off the more difficult emotions that might show up in me.
My habitual reactions have served to deflect the pain, sadness or fear I feel. I prefer to avoid this suffering and even the thoughts of it. It just feels better that way.
But in these last few months, I’m discovering something that I never really understood before.
Instead of resisting or deflecting, Iâ€™m learning to sit with this terrible, no good, rotten stuff thatâ€™s happening, and give it permission to have a voice within me. Iâ€™m practicing intimacy with the difficulty and sadness. Iâ€™m allowing myself to engage and dialog with the pain and discomfort I feel. Iâ€™m holding space for all of it.
And when I do, I’m jarred out of my complacency and the casual beliefs of an untroubled life. I accept my fragility. I adopt the instability and uncertainty of this life.
And in that, somehow thereâ€™s no need to fix, solve or reverse this heavy heart.
Itâ€™s fine just as it is.