Sunday, February 7, 2010

Living a Mindful Life Lesson 12: The Lonely Hunter

Have you ever read the book by Carson McCullers called The Heart is a Lonely Hunter? Go here if you want to learn more about it: Any way, since I read it in college, the title has stuck with me more than the actual story. Since it has been at least 20 years since I read it, I can't really remember all the details. The main thing I remember is the title.

Lately I have been going through a lot of emotional turmoil. Lately meaning the last year and a half, but who is keeping record? Me. For eighteen months one thing after the other has happened to me or people I love from illnesses, to death, to cancer, to finical struggles and so on. I know we all have our issues and our life struggles. Some I consider worse and some not so bad. But who am I to judge? Pain, loneliness, problems and even joys are all subjective to the receptor and "experiencer".

I had a vision of my heart last night. It was a combination of the Dead Sea and the Moon: all cracked and cratered but still illuminating from an outside source---God, the love of my husband and the childlike admiration of my children?. I imagined that it is bandaged, scared, chipped, broken and sewed up with silk threads and wire. There are a couple of colorful band-aids from my daughter on there, too. Some repair jobs are surgical miracles; the scars are near invisible, and some are hack jobs. And I thought: "My heart is a lonely hunter" searching for love, companionship, truth, and acceptance.

One thing I've learned from parenting my two children is that they will behave in the best way possible with all that they have at that moment. I think the same is true for adults. I try to keep this in mind . In living a mindful life, it is important to try and take your loved ones, even the people you encounter day to day, as they are in the moment that they present themselves. If someone you love is usually jovial and all of a sudden they "aren't acting like themselves", then something must have happened. People's personalities and true selves don't change for no reason.

With my husband and parents, this is easily reciprocated--my joint unconditional lovers. I even took a binding oath to love, cherish and honor my relationship to my husband. Too bad we don't take a similar oath with our friends. Then there would be clearer guidelines on what is expected (I am such a black and white person.) I am guilty of taking my own silent oath to treat my friends as if...well they were friends and sometimes family (the good kind of family where you are nice to each other and everything). I am also guilty of placing expectations of them on the same level that I place expectations of myself as a friend. This often gets my feelings hurt because sometimes one of or all of them treat me in a way that is contrary to my definition of how I treat a friend. My heart is a lonely hunter.

So what do I do when this happens while trying to live a mindful life? Do I hold a grudge? Sometimes. Do I cry into my pillow at night? Often. Do I obsess over why,why why? Oh, yes. None of this is productive and not very mindful. One time when a man broke my heart into almost unrecognizable pieces, I laid and bed and cried for two days and nights straight. My sister-in-law show up and said: "OK it's over. It is his loss. Time to shower and move on." So, it all comes down to the proverbial "picking battles" theory. I have to choose whether to charge my heart into battle fully well knowing that it will come back lame and perhaps needing a lot of TLC.

It all comes down to protecting yourself: being mindful of what YOU can handle and what YOU want to battle over. Sometimes it just isn't worth it. Sometimes it is. Sometimes you should do the duck thing and let it roll off your back and sometimes you should charge head on like a bull seeing red. Whatever you do, before reacting, try to take a moment to assess the damages. You have to protect your lonely heart or go into it with a well stock First Aid kit in hand.

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