Heart At Home, Almost

Does a heart need to be exactly the right shape or a recognizable form to be called a “heart?” Why is there doubt in my acknowledging this one from two evenings ago? Every time a heart finds me, and this one is no exception, I get a sudden, warming sensation all-throughout my body. It’s like when I’m at the end of a bike ride, and I’ve just made the last turn back into my neighborhood: I feel that gravitational pull leading me home and it is a feeling of breathing relief and melting relaxation, all in one.

This past Thursday evening, on the way home from work, I had made a stop at Home Depot. After parking my car carefully in an end-spot, far-away from large SUVs and trucks, in my “chicken shoes” I walked though the slush and wet of the brightly-lit parking lot, blackened asphalt sparkling in high-relief with chunky salt bits of white and blue. Each step made loud, unavoidable crunching and popping sounds that echoed and announced my approach to the entrance automatic door, which noisily cranks and slides back, and now looking down, I see the salt-spray has been traded for dirty-sloppy-wet and this lonely little spec of white-blobby-something in my path. It is a tiny gesture of greeting to me, and my eyes immediately lock on to it.

Is it a heart? If I take a picture of this sighting, will others see what I see? There is always risk in the sharing of my thoughts and point of view being not understood. Which is more important: merely sharing what I see or definitively being understood? Like a piece of artwork, the artist creates the art itself, and it is up to the observer of said-art to evaluate and decide its meaning. Each person will have their own opinion. Who defines what is “art”? Who defines what is, and is not, a “heart”? I’ve been thinking about this, mulling over my own uncertainties and doubts, and have decided that more so than what I see, it is what I “feel” that is most important to share with others. Listening and understanding how someone feels can sometimes be more difficult than agreeing to see the same thing.

Does “understanding” anything that another person shows or tells you mean that you must also have “experienced” it or have the very-same opinion? In my own life, it is now often difficult for me to listen to others’ stories or situations because I have resistance to using my limited emotional energies or I am afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and being rejected in response. Admittedly, I have an underlying fear of making friends for these reasons and more. Deeper still, sometimes I have caught myself having a “closed mind” to seemingly far-removed topics, and that has been no excuse to turn away from an opportunity to learn about what is deeply meaningful to others.

I sincerely apologize if I have ever not listened to you and I am hoping to be “open-minded” from now on. How ridiculously hypocritical of me when I say communication and relationships are so important to me, and yet so sad, that at times, I am disconnected even within my own “grief community” in being afraid of not meeting group expectations or somehow offending someone. The mindset of feeling a need to “make better” someone else’s pain or make a grand action-reaction to an event, as if it’s all on me to do so, is very hard to undo and especially to try a different approach.

My truth is, the only “action” to make is acknowledgment: the simple mirroring or repeating of what you just heard, the nodding of your head in response as an “I hear you” and it not necessary to be an “I agree with you,” the sitting somberly beside a person in difficult times without saying a word. These “small” things are actually “big” things. From my own experience, acknowledgement sometimes feels like learning a new language. I practice and use it as much as I can, hoping someday I will be fluent in the language of acknowledgement. This is always a work in progress, and last Thursday evening, I found myself circling around this petite, styrofoam blob on frozen concrete, trying to decide the best angle to take a picture of an “almost heart shape” so others could most likely see what I see. The best angle for the picture was taken from the perspective of walking out of the store.

If I were to interpret my own “art” of this particular heart, to me this image reminds me of being on a beach, the white salt curtain at the top, flowing in only to ebb and wash away a brief moment. Wet concrete is saturated sand, my feet are sinking in and soon I will not see the tips of my shoes. The chickens represent hurried-impulsiveness and are symbolic of hunger for what is soon to be gone if not pecked and eaten quickly. Expected nourishment is empty, styrofoam reduced to its finest particles cannot be swallowed or digested. There is a need to move, to find something lost, the shoes are now deeply stuck, so I know I must step out of the shoes and leap into the salted water in front of me to get to someplace else and find lost comfort food. Back and forth, lifting my heels out of these sunken shoes in a stationary tap-dance, I am holding my breath and dreading a frigid shock from the water that awaits me.

What I had hoped to find at Home Depot, I did not see. Leaving the store empty-handed, I exited out of the same entrance doors, noting the heart still firmly adhered and part of the muck, one last time. My thoughts are interrupted by crackles and loud pings of the parking lot salt heard below with every step. Darkness has made the lineup of wetted-cars look like rows of beached whales. Scuffing to a stop now, where did I park my car? ~Paula

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