I guess many of us have heard the expression “hard hearted”. We may know a hard hearted person or we may have felt our own heart harden in response to betrayals and traumas which affected us so deeply it felt just too painful at times to feel that vulnerability and pain that came when we opened our hearts in trust to an abusive or unkind person, or someone who just didn’t seem to care or want to pay attention to our needs and feelings.
Many of us may have had to develop an armouring around our hearts at times in order to survive in a world where our hearts may be damaged or our feelings discounted.
I shared in an earlier blog about my experience with the radiologist and her assistant in which they lacked complete empathy or understanding of my emotional response to the prospect of chemotherapy treatment and the raised issue of several terminations of pregnancy I suffered when young. I shared how I came away from the appointment feeling traumatised and alienated.
This week when I attended my second planning appointment I had an opportunity to address my distress and speak about it both to a nurse and a social worker. They listened to me and they validated my feelings, they encouraged me to speak up and said that the treatment I had been subjected too was uncaring and wrong. I cannot tell you how much their validation helped me this week to feel happy and as if I could finally let my heart soften a little.
My impulse when the radiologist came to adjust the wires on my breast in prep for my cat scan was to harden my heart and don my heart armour. I know it is important to protect myself around people who show a failure of empathy. Its not wise to reach out to them too much, nor entrust them with my heart.
But a problem comes when this hardening of my heart extends to other situations in which relationships could improve if I opened my heart and spoke about my feelings truthfully. And it is my experience that in the past three months since my breast cancer diagnosis, operation and subsequent treatments that others have been willing to open their hearts to me. They have begun to understand the impact trauma has had on my life. They have been more willing to offer a helping hand rather than a critical judgement. Its a shame I had to get sick for this to happen, but maybe that is what it takes.
Today I had one of my rare visits by my brother. He is absent for three months of year (around the critical traumatic past events in our family, my father’s death and sister’s stroke) which he spends overseas but he returns just prior to anniversary of my eldest sister’s death. For many years I have longed for a closer relationship. Our lives and worlds are very different. He is a very busy designer and business man. And yet over the past few years I have found him much more willing to stop and communicate with me. We still can’t touch base on deeper subjects as I have longed to. He keeps his heart close to his chest and yet lately I have really been feeling my heart open and soften towards him in a way it hasn’t in past years when I have felt resentment.
Today he arrived with two muffins that his daughter in law baked. We shared a cup of tea. My dog Jasper jumped all over him (which is always a mystery to my brother – he just isn’t a ‘doggy’ person.) I had to explain to him that Jasper is showing him affection as he does to everyone around. His woofing is his way of saying “hello”. My brother was amused by the way Jasper lies legs splayed out, tummy and chin close to the ground. “I’ve never seen a dog lie like that” he said to me. I just smiled.
He spoke of how his son is overworking. They have designed and built a huge office building and there is a lot to organise. I thought of how this is our family pattern and felt how grateful I am to be outside of that pattern now, with my quieter inwardly centred life.
After he left and we hugged, I felt my heart soften. I felt the tears well up. I thought of my father who I lost 31 years ago to cancer. I thought of the tears that fell for me earlier in the week when I watched Long Lost Families and witnessed a daughter reunited with her father who left about 20 years before. I thought of the difficult relationships I have had with men, of the longing I always felt unconsciously to be seen, to be known, to be loved in quiet moments and simple ways which were not often present and of the rage, sadness and despair that I fell into when those relationships fell apart. I thought of the one time I used to feel close to my Dad, when we would go to the summer fair at the coast and ride the Cha Cha.
As I write this I am thinking of the long years of emotional emptiness where my abandonment trauma and grief were so unconscious. I am thinking of the opportunity the ending of my last relationship opened up for me to grieve and acknowledge all of this pain. As I sit quietly on a sunny Sunday, I feel a sense of calm peace around and within me. Today I can feel the softness of a heart within me and within my Inner Child that longed for tenderness, attention and love that was so often absent.
I am aware that in the work I have been doing over these past years I have begun to find these things within me, in the rooms of my therapist, with people who share their own journeys on WordPress and with me in life. I am aware of the quiet underground stream of love that was always there dammed up, that longs to carry me home, that helps me cry and flows to release whatever pain is pent up, that speaks to me of my heart.
For so long it felt like such a vast, deep unnavigable ocean, but today it is the calm lake that I sit beside and watch send off beams of sunlight in the quiet stillness spent here reflecting with a soft heart. Some kind of healing seems to be happening, as I feel myself present and slow, there is a quiet contentment, a sense that I have finally found a home and place to rest within, a place of wholeness beyond all the pain and suffering.