When I was a kid, heart transplants were the medical miracle. I was obsessed and the pioneering doctor, Christiaan Barnard, was my hero. At 11 years old, I read and clipped every article about him and his surgeries and I memorized the stories and names of every patient. I was sure I would become a heart surgeon.
Recently, I had an epiphany about what my youthful interest in heart transplants really meant:
In a family filled with broken hearts, Christiaan Barnard was hope-- a man who could make you new. And in the recesses of my unconscious, I wanted to take all the brokenness away. It was a beautiful realization from a child desperate to change their trajectory—that replacing a physical heart could take emotional pain away.
In adulthood, I changed my legacy. And on my canvas, I celebrate this journey to joy in the creation of Mend My Heart, Christiaan Barnard.
And maybe I have reached that childhood wish…that through my art, perhaps I am a healer of hearts~*
To add to the story, today I uncovered this blog I wrote six years ago about carrying the burden of having a depressed parent and Mary Oliver’s poetry adding insight. It is at the core of what my world presented to me and how yoga offered me so much in my healing.
May your day be filled with opening to all the beauty around you—here is that blog post:
The Journey—Through a Breath of Fire
In speaking the truth, I would say that I was raised by a mother who was chronically depressed and never felt much, if any, joy. For years, I worried that I might be the same –until, in my adulthood—I was able to notice how truly joyful I am and how hard it was to live in the shadow of someone else’s depression. Particularly as a child.
For decades, I thought I was responsible for my mother’s happiness. To take care of her. What a huge burden on a young soul and a heavy task for anyone. I gave and gave to my mom and yet she rarely smiled or shared a positive thought. Her sadness tortured her…and me. I thought, if only I could make it better. If only I could tap dance faster, hide the triggers for her sadness, if only…she might be better. Every child wants their parents to be happy. And yet a mindful, loving parent would never want their child to bear that burden of responsibility.
Often, I envied my friends and their mothers who were soft and full of hugs and laps for listening. I mourned that missing piece in my life until I learned to have it through my own parenting. I could be in that relationship not as daughter, but as mother and blossom in that loving place.
Yesterday, I reread Mary Oliver’s The Journey, a poem that deeply resonates in my heart:
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
We watch things happen to those we love as they surround their lives sometimes with pain that we cannot take away. They may drink too much, be with partners who hurt them. They fight demons we cannot take away. And these are our struggles to come to terms with. What is theirs and what is ours?
I think about this in my yoga practice lately. In all the noise of my world, I relish the predictability of it all. I know what comes next, I am not blindsided. I can relax. This gives me the freedom to work deeper, harder and free from fear. Much can be stirred as I wrestle with my mind and mat during my 90 minutes on the mat and yet always, at the end, I can seal my practice with “Breath of Fire”—breathing out all the toxins that were stirred in the last 90 minutes. I used to think this was only a literal instruction…that the toxins were in my sweat, but I have come to realize that the toxins can well be in my soul. That what is stirred in my heart and soul sometimes needs a source of release in my body. What a wonderful catharsis. I could have used Breath of Fire when I was a kid. But, I have found it today, here in my practice and that is a blessing.
Today, I ruminate over Mary Oliver’s words…the only life you can truly save…there is deep comfort in the words and that truth for me. We can love, support, offer compassion and caring, but it is truly only our own lives which we can change.
I feel these words deeply in my heart as I begin to think about my art today. Perhaps they will bring me new images on my canvas and new inspirations in my life. I see the light of a beautiful morning. I feel the coolness of autumn arriving. I feel the corners of my mouth turn up in a grateful smile. I am joyful…this is my journey today and wishing you joy in yours. Namaste’