How We Live in The House of Happy.

“When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college—that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, ‘You mean they forgot?’” ~ Howard Ikemoto

Dear Heart,

You came with me to humanity, into this earth body, soft and open like a woman’s womb. I was just an infant when I began to turn you to stone rather than let you break me.

I dropped pebbles of pain into you. As a little one hooked up to tubes, pneumonia constricting me, I started to encase you for protection. After such a short stint in this world I was born into, but not born for, I fought. I won; one pebble buried in the heart of this baby body.

Later at home, as the youngest, I let words that hurt from my brother and sister—children striving for attention and power, as we’re inclined to do—drop like pebbles into the puddle of my heart, to help me toughen up.

To be tough enough, I took my unacknowledged aggression to school, fist-fought boys and made them cry, pummeling pebbles of humiliation into their little-men hearts.

The pebbles I spit out left remnants that grew like rocks in my gut. Unbearable, I determined to become unbreakable, strong, independent.

Oh, how the world clapped for me. Later, I read books and learned to be better, to love, even with my hardness.

Love awakened you, Heart. It made you wild and free like a dolphin in the ocean. Then, I’m sorry. For all the times I couldn’t sustain love and tended to you only enough to make you resilient, rather than let you be my guide.

You represented the rock I tripped over too many times, not realizing how to repair, reclaim, or reconnect. So, I trusted my mind over you.

For what’s a woman to do—raised in patriarchy, perfectionism, and the overarching premise that the purpose of life is to get it right?

Mirroring society, I relied on my mind, sought logic and proof. I learned to manifest and compete with the best.

I used my body as much as any man did, making it serve me as a tool, rather than a partner. I willingly elected my mind the master, the masculine driver.

We Americans are so smart, but it seems we, collectively, as I’ve done individually, repeatedly drove ourselves into a ditch. That’s where our thinking got us.

If knowledge was the answer, we wouldn’t face such disaster.

So now, dear Heart, I turn to you. With the piled pebbles, you seem frozen like stone. I’m tempted to turn back, listen to my mind, manipulate myself the way systems have manipulated us all, while we eagerly participate by downplaying, dropping dozens of pebbles and perpetuating what’s not working rather than feeling what’s wrong.

We’ve been taught not to feel, not if it hurts. Happy is the American mantra. So, we turn from our hearts as we’ve done for generations.

I try to imagine being a slave owner’s wife, watching him whip, lash, and slash another human’s back. But no, I would’ve, as a white woman in history, turned away—like we do today when we say, “I can’t look at that,” on behalf of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and numerous names we don’t want to know.

We don’t want to look, to see, so we say. What we’re afraid of is feeling the grief, sorrow, shame, and rage of a heart awakened.

So, we return to the House of Happy, the house of privilege, to our hearts heavy with generations of swallowed pebbles, now boulders born through epigenetics.

Who told us to think big, but feel less? “Don’t be so sensitive,” my ex-husband said. Worse, we say it to ourselves.

No, no! We proclaim. I feel. I feel good. I’m happy. I look at what’s before me. I feel love and gratitude. We chant, with our backs turned toward those suffering.

Heart nudges. She tells us to look around, not just in front of us, but who’s beside us and what’s happening?

Heart doesn’t need more pebbles. She’s here, ready to serve and honor our souls’ calling. To love bigger, wider, deeper, past the masks.

Heart encourages us to look directly into the chaos, to see the kids in cages, the Wall of Moms and Veterans braving teargas from their government, the teenagers showing up, standing up, getting busted up on behalf of a better tomorrow, the hospitals bursting with a pandemic of epic proportions, the people and police being pulled into ever-evolving chaos and violence, the economy threatening to crumble harder than the Financial Crisis of 2008. Unsustainable systems are breaking.

The mind is livid. We scream, “I can’t take this!” The problem is we can’t think our way out of this.

But, Heart? She’s here. She’s cracked. The pebbles fall and scatter like marbles on a linoleum floor. Heart rises like the phoenix. She’s come full circle, once again soft and buoyant, as open as a woman’s womb, growing and ready to give birth to something new. Let her.

 

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