Heart Work

During a prayer session at church one Sunday morning, a pastor prayed and whispered close to my ear, “Lord heal her heart”. I had gotten in the Intercessory Prayer Line for no specific reason. I just knew I wanted something…whatever it was that I needed to make it along my journey, I wanted it. I wasn’t in a relationship. In fact, I had not even been in a serious adult relationship. I wasn’t dating. I was abstinent because I was waiting for marriage, of course. I did not see myself as a person whose heart needed mending. My mind, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. I was on the mend, the mind mend. I was 23 years old and a first-year teacher. I had just graduated from college one year prior. I was on the mend from a major, massive, public nervous breakdown. My mind had “split”. That was the only way that I could describe it. Because of this breakdown, I thought something was wrong with me. I thought many things: I thought I was crazy. I thought I was mentally ill. I thought I was schizophrenic. I thought I was weird. I thought I was broken. I thought I would be alone forever. I thought no one would understand me. I thought I would never understand myself. I thought I was lost. I thought I needed healing. I thought God had abandoned me. I thought. And I thought. And I thought.

Before this complete break, I was many things and terrified was one of them. I was terrified of everything: People’s perceptions, uncertainty, the possibility of embarrassment, failure, rejection—all of these things terrified me. They formed in my heart and plagued my mind. I had private conversations that I never verbalized. Secret crushes that I never revealed. I silently hoped for love and experienced rejection all within myself, never even verbalizing these feelings to anyone. Not even really admitting to myself that these thoughts and feelings were mine. That these desires were mine. These hopes, dreams and disappointments formed in my heart and plagued my mind, breaking them both at the same time. I was heartbroken and because of it, a shattered mind was soon to come.

I knew nothing about the effects of stress—chronic, toxic or otherwise. I knew nothing about my genetic composition or using nutrition to fuel my mind, body, and spirit. I knew nothing about the power of pursuing my dreams, exploring my desires and managing my stress—having a true release or outlet. All of my adolescent life, I had been an athlete. My mother had the presence of mind to keep me busy. Whether or not she realized the power of that dopamine and serotine production, I do not know. What I do know is that athletics kept me balanced while I was an adolescent. I maintained a consistently active life throughout college, though it waxed and waned a bit like the moon, with me leaning in to longer hours and shorter spurts of sleep with stalled activity. When I was active, it was mainly for weight management. I knew nothing about the effects of stress or connection with nutrition to my overall functioning, moods, emotions, willpower or health. Had I known the importance of wellness, I would have taken better care of my heart thereby taking better care of myself, my mind.

What is the purpose of this memoir? It is a book of lessons learned now after 43 full years lived, in year 44 with a renewed perspective of not just who I am but the life that I have lived thus far. It is a love letter and series of vignettes. It is revelation and some regret. It is questions that I still have and hope. It is also heartache and dreams deferred. It is the stuff that we are made of and the thread that binds us together in this single human experience as we share this planet seeking to simply do good and be well. What I hope is that through my life, my lived experiences, we can learn all the more how to be well: mind, body, soul and emotions—knowing that life is not happening to us, it is happening because of us, because of our purpose and we are exactly who we need to be at this moment of our lives, living not only the dream but the destiny we were meant to live. The only voice we need to listen intently to is the one that is one within that reminds us of our truest desire. There we will find ourselves. There we will find peace. There we will find the answers to every question we seek if even that answer is stillness, silence, or better yet more questions. For our only task is to be more of ourselves each day.

Although I may speak directly to my readers throughout this memoir, it is simply my story and how I have made sense of my life thus far or what questions I still have. It’s not a guidebook or prescription or handbook or directive. It’s not even advice. As Jessmyn Stanley reminds us Every Body is different. My lessons are mine, so what did or did not work for me may not work for someone else. But what it might do is shed light, open a door, provoke thought or dispel a myth. I am a teacher at heart but instead of proselytize, I would rather my entire life be the lesson where humanity can take from it what it wills, keeping what resonates and leaving the rest to appreciate simply as my lived experience. If I have learned any lesson that would be to surrender into simply being instead of doing. I spent a large majority of my life playing roles…figuring out what my new task was supposed to look like, and matching that. I have made some great strides and achieved high honors doing such. These times that I face now call for more authenticity. They call for an intention that can only come from my own inner voice. My own soul. My own spirit. I invite others to examine theirs as well or simply appreciate the journey that I have shared. Whether or not this is some kind of awakening, I am not sure. I do know that I have chosen…I have dared to do life differently. And in doing so, I am in a space that I have never before occupied, and I am uncomfortably satisfied in this space. Enjoy the journey and remember to Be Well my friends.

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