Broken Hearts

A broken heart can seem like the end of the world. But, if you give yourself a chance, it can also be the beginning of a new world.

Sometimes we don’t feel we have the ability to defend ourselves from a broken heart. Things just happen to us. They come and overwhelm us, sometimes making it hard to breathe. And it can seem too challenging to believe there is any way to reassemble our lives and reclaim our heart.

I have a story to tell you about this.

My sister, Alison, and I like to try out various art classes. We decided it would be fun to do some stained-glass work, so signed up and when the time came, showed up at the studio. As is often the case, I was the only man present. I’ve grown accustomed to this and the mothering I usually receive from the women taking the class.

There were seven or eight of us present. The instructor was very pleasant and helpful and guided us through the process and various techniques we would be using. When she was done with her introductory comments, she asked us to wander around and choose the glass pieces that appealed to us.

It was a lot of fun seeing all the various sizes, colors, and textures of the glass pieces. I gathered what I thought would be enough to complete my project and sat down next to my sister.

At first, I began randomly placing pieces in my frame. I really didn’t have any preconceived idea how my project would turn out. I was just ‘winging it’. At some point I realized I didn’t like how it looked, so I tipped out all the pieces onto the table.

There were a host of shrieks and everyone in the class turned toward me. They simply could not believe I’d done that and were upset on my behalf. Some thought it must have been an accident. Others were convinced I was upset or crazy. Once they knew it was an intentional act on my part, they all wanted to know WHY?

I told them I’d changed my mind. I looked at the assembled stained-glass pieces and I didn’t like what I saw. I told them I needed to start over and that it would be okay. They didn’t seem at all reassured and went back to their own projects, shaking their heads.

I began again. This time though the pieces fell easily into place. I noticed a surprising calmness inside of me. I’d followed my own inner guidance and as I looked down, an incredible thing happened. A beautiful image appeared. It was Mary, the mother of Jesus, dressed in a blue swirling shroud. I looked more carefully and noticed she was holding a broken heart in her hands. I knew she was mending it. I sat there in complete awe.

Of all the artwork I have created, it is by far my most favorite.

It speaks to me. I hear gently words she shared about how to mend a broken heart.

She told me that it is only when we choose to feel what we are feeling that we can begin. We know it’s going to be painful and yet, I feel there is a promise in this for us, that once we allow the pain in and recognize its presence, it becomes ready to leave us. We can let it go, making space for something new to take its place. And we can start over. We can be patient and watchful, looking for a new life to emerge. We can open our hearts, so we can experience new dreams. And, although it seems impossible to us, we can be grateful. Grateful that life does not end with a broken heart. If we allow it, our life can begin again. Our hearts can be mended.

I think about this every time I look at my beautiful stained-glass artwork hanging in my office window. Sometimes first thing in the morning the rising sun lights it up and I sense the truth that no heart is ever beyond mending.

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Do Overs

When I was a kid we resorted to the strategy of ‘do overs’ a lot, finding countless opportunities to take advantage of this practice. And why not? Everybody makes mistakes and wants a chance to do better.

It starts pretty early in life.

I remember one hot summer day when I received a beautiful cold sweet ice cream cone. I was so excited that I didn’t pay enough attention as I took it from my father. You can probably guess what happened. Yup, the ice cream scoop fell onto the ground and I was left holding the cone. I don’t remember whether I screamed or cried, but I got a do over…another ice cream cone. Go Dad, you rock!

Funny thing is, that do overs are programmed in to some things, kind of a recognition that everything doesn’t always work out the first time. Take our national pastime of baseball, for example. If you’re really good or perhaps, really bad, you can stand at homeplate all day long and hit foul balls. You get to keep trying till you hit the ball between the first and third base lines. I guess Abner Doubleday liked do overs a lot.

And sometimes in school, on rare instances, if you flunked an exam, you might get an opportunity to take a make-up test. I’m not sure how this gets decided, which ones you do and which ones you don’t, but I know it exists. Not that I ever flunked a test (wink wink).

I recognize that we are usually under some kind of pressure to perform tasks and that there are often expectations attached to our results. Supposedly, some people thrive under these conditions, but more often, I believe we’d feel much better if we knew there would always be the possibility of a do over.

What if life was like tennis, where you always get a second serve. Or even golf, where you can take a ‘mulligan’ (a well-loved, but unofficial opportunity to hit your shot over again), in case you drove your golf ball into the woods. I realize this doesn’t fly in professional tournaments, but in my opinion, life isn’t a tournament

Once you transition from school to the work world, you encounter all sorts of new experiences. Sometimes there’s latitude for errors and sometimes not.

I worked as a bank teller for a few years before moving up the ladder. At the end of each shift you had to ‘prove’, meaning that all of what you took in had to equal all of what you gave out. If it didn’t match, you had to find out why. This could be a very tedious and unnerving experience, especially if the amount was significant. Surprisingly, $100 differences were not uncommon. This happened to me a couple of times. We eventually found most of them, but imagine if every teller had to be perfect every day with no allowance for mistakes. No do overs.

And then there is the world of relationships. We all make so many mistakes no matter how hard we try. Of course, we can apologize and ask for permission to try again, promising to do better and hope our do over is granted.

I feel it would help us all if we remembered that each of us is a giver and a receiver when it comes to do overs. The giver can extend mercy and compassion. They can offer encouragement and express love and leave the door open. The receiver can promise to be more thoughtful or careful. They can show gratitude and love for their second chances and do those things that they promise.

I’m going to take some time over the next few days to pay attention to giving and receiving. I’d love to have you join me, and if you’re inclined, let me know how it goes with your do overs.

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Kindness

Here’s an opportunity to try something new. To open a door in your world and see where it leads. What beautiful shift might occur in your outlook if you allowed yourself some freedom. Freedom to explore some new spiritual practices. Ones that appeal to you and offer hope and excitement and a sense of connection, perhaps to an inner part of you or perhaps to what you think of when you hear the word, ‘divine’.

Ready? I’m going to assume that you said ‘yes’, and I’ll keep going.

Although there are literally hundreds of directions we could go, let’s take just one step and see what happens.

Spiritual practices offer us every possible direction, so we can go inside or stay outside. For this exercise, let’s do both at the same time.

It will be fun. I promise.

So here it is…spend a little time and create an “intentional act of kindness plan” for the next seven days. I say, “intentional”, rather than the more common term of “random”, because I believe the creation of a plan IS “intentional”. You’re doing it “on purpose”, not with a specific idea of how it will turn out, but because you want to be present and somewhat purposeful.

I’m going to suggest that you start out with creating ideas. What acts of kindness come to your mind. Just let them pop into your head and write down a bunch of ideas that appeal to you. Once you have them captured, say each one out loud and see which ones your heart is drawn to.  Make a list of 3-5 ideas (or more) that you want to put into practice during this week.

Once you have your list, imagine what you need in order to perform these acts of “intentional kindness”. Remember that they can cost you nothing or something. That part is entirely up to you.

How are you going to create some magic for someone else? Who will it be? When will you do these things? Plan it out a bit, but not too much. This isn’t intended to be a chore for you. It’s not another “to do” item, but rather an overflowing from the joy that lives inside of you, now and what is to come.

Okay, so now you have your plan.

One more thing. I’m going to suggest that you perform some acts of kindness anonymously and some where the person you’re doing this for knows that it is you. I’m very curious to know if that changes anything about the experience for you, so I’m going to ask you, if you are willing, to record your feelings about each one of the “intentional acts” you perform. That’s really a big part of this exercise.

That ought to be enough to get you started.

I would like to share with you that for my sixty-third birthday I performed 63 intentional acts of kindness. It was an amazing adventure. I learned so much about myself throughout the process, which actually took me all month to complete.

I was constantly surprised, amused and overjoyed by my experience. I found deep connections are always within reach, as long as I was willing to take one simple step.

I wish you well on this journey and would love to hear whatever you care to share.

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