I have a confession-one no blogger would admit to if they were worth their salt. Well, salty or not, I have never picked a “word”. I have never pondered what one thing I would like to track my year with or one word that would hold me accountable to doing amazing feats of blogness. I think it mostly boils down to the fact that I don’t do resolutions-at least not seriously. I am too ADD for that! What sounds good today may not be what is going to rock my socks next month and (after learning from experience) I know that it is easier to avoid resolutions than it is to admit to bottoming out on them. This year is different.
I can’t say I picked a word, per se, it is more of a phrase. And, I didn’t pick it-it picked me, back in November. It has stuck so tenaciously to me that I have no recourse other than to own it. Before I divulge it I feel a little back story needs to be uncovered in order for it to make sense.
I am going to reveal something here that will bother some folks-in fact, I will be judged by some. I make no apologies but am open to offering explanations. I have a tattoo. Oh, and I am going to be 50 in a couple of months. I know this is two things but they are related so bear with me. I got the tattoo in November, right after Thanksgiving. That afternoon my phrase attached itself to me.
I have joked for years, off and on, that I was going to get a tattoo but I don’t think I was ever really very serious. A couple of my kids have tattoos-nothing crazy-just tattoos with deep meaning for them. I can’t say I ever approved and, in fact, I was quite shocked when I discovered them! Being part of a very conservative family, half the fun was threatening to get one because I knew it would rock the boat. I am not sure when but somewhere along the way I didn’t feel like I was joking about it anymore.
I was getting older and felt I was slowly disappearing-that life was becoming too prescribed, predictable and that I had lost a part of myself somewhere along the way. I felt closed off from the excitement of life around me, distant from God and so deeply insulated that I didn’t feel anything real anymore-like I was an objective observer who knew the correct responses and could conjure them when needed. The worst part was that I had let this happen. In protecting myself from hurt, disappointments, dashed expectations and broken dreams I had built up solid and soundproof walls that isolated me from the outside and hid my hurt and longings from the world-even those closest to me had no idea what was going on inside.
I was meeting a friend of mine for lunch in a neighboring town and felt this slow ‘setting in motion’ sense of something-I just knew that if I was going to do this-it was today. I didn’t tell anyone. It wasn’t something that I had scheduled or determined ahead of time-it was just the day. I also knew that if I didn’t go through with it that I would never do it AND I would never be the same. Dramatic sounding, I know-but this was a now or never feeling that I haven’t experienced in years. Years and years in fact-not since I left home to save myself at 17.
Going home I had this mixture of exhilaration and dread. Thoughts of ‘Oh. My. Gosh. What have I just done” and “How am I going to tell my family I have gone off the deep end?” swirled together with “I did it!” and “Whoa.” for the 45 minute drive back to where we are staying. There were even a few tears because for the first time in a very long time I felt very keenly alive. And then I prayed. I prayed for God to break my heart. To shatter it in so many ways so that I could find, and feel, myself back into a place I had been so many years ago.
I use to have a heart of compassion, I use to care about ‘things’ in a way that moved my heart to action. I had lost that. Years of learning to stuff my feelings and hide my needs or weaknesses had left me starved and hardhearted. I had learned early on not to ‘tell anyone your problems, because nobody cared’. So, seeking help with anything was out of the question. It doesn’t matter who said this to me-what matters is that this little phrase started me down a path of hiding. I also learned that sharing your views-especially if they did not fit with certain individuals views-suggested you were stupid or just plain wrong-so really, why talk at all. Guarded living hardens. Thick walls, while protective, remove you from the world and after a while you don’t see or hear those things that make you uncomfortable. You simply judge(wall) them away.
So, at nearly 50 I got a tattoo and started down a path of broken walls. This one little prayer-break my heart-is proving to be one of the most dangerous and liberating prayers I have ever prayed. I wish I could say that getting the tattoo was painful and that the pain broke through the blah, blah, blah but it didn’t-not even a little bit. What broke through was the feelings. I had taken a step that broke conventions, that somehow had opened up a remembered place long ago sealed up. Maybe it is the secret rebel in me or simply just the adrenaline that came with knowing there was no going back-whatever it is I am grateful. My heart is breaking daily and I am grateful.
I don’t just pray this once. I pray it throughout the day. When I feel that old feeling of judgement (something that comes with hardening) I pray again for my heart to be broken. When I want to seal my lips against speaking what I know to be a truth-I pray for my heart to be broken. When I begin to feel it is not my problem-I pray for my heart to be broken. Dangerous, dangerous words because, you see, when you ask God to break your heart-he does. And, sometimes it hurts but sometimes it feels so good simply because it feels.
So, there you have it-my ‘word’ of the year. Break. Though it will be a phrase to me-one that has given me a before an after-a no going back. I have a sense that this will be a strange year because you can’t pray dangerously and not expect that things will stay the same. As for the tat? Well, I talked about it in one of my previous posts-fully thinking I would never have the cajones to do it. It’s an ampersand. A pretty cool one at that. AND, every time I look at it I think two things; and then what happened? and the phrase AND He is STILL good.