The Chambers of the Heart

By Heather Thomas

Part One—The Hidden Heart

The hidden heart. Our heart beats about 100,000 times in one day and about 35 million times in a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart with its 4 chambers will beat more than 2.5 million times pumping oxygen through our body. Yet, we’ll go days, weeks, sometimes longer before we even pay attention to its beautiful, life-affirming rhythm.

Running is the way I rediscover the beauty of the heartbeat most often. And, what is hidden in my mind and spirit gets exposed—there’s things I’m running from and things I’m running towards, with the heartbeat of my body and of my life meeting me in the middle of that space of awakening.

In the quiet-loud swishing space of time and motion, steadily beating its drum of beauty and brokenness, the heartbeat is the most beautiful songs.

We refer to the heart in the emotional sense more often than in the physical one, so over the years I began to explore the myriad ways the heart in both senses shapes our lives, and the more I wanted to identify the chambers of my own heart. I adore the dual meaning of chambers here— The right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium and the left ventricle—but also the meaning of chambers as it pertains to a room in a home, or a space in time itself that is filled with the swishing of the moments that make up the minutia of our lives, traveling onward with every breath we take, helpless to stop the ebb and flow of oxygen, of joy, of sadness, and everything in-between.

Just like our heartbeats, too often we don’t take time to pause and appreciate the present minute, to breathe in the quite, the loud, the peace and the chaos. Putting on our love glasses, we can see the hidden hearts all around us. For me, I usually find them in nature, and often on my runs, when my mind and spirit are attuned more keenly to the beat of my heart and to the beat of life.

The heart pictured is a sawed off limb from a tree that fell during Hurricane Hermine. The wires from a downed utility pole are also featured in the picture, juxtaposed with the pink blooms of the azaleas… all of this symbolizing hope and inspiration after a storm. This picture and other hidden hearts I’ve found over the recent months are windows into the rooms of experiences that have helped me to find perspective and meaning.

I’ve divided the exploration of the hidden heart into four chapters, or blog posts, starting with this one, and then sharing some pieces of my heart involving the birth and death of life and of love. I’m hoping by sharing the hearts that I find will help you open up your own hidden chambers, finding meaning, perspective, and hope in the midst of your storms.

Listen to your heart—it is singing a song that only you can hear with words that only your soul can understand.

Surrender

By Heather Thomas

As much as I use words in my professional and personal life, the word, “surrender” is not in my native vocabulary. Take the other morning for instance—waking up with a migraine and my period, and thereby running late in getting my daughter to school, I come home to a dog poop mess and needing to wash the dog and the floors all before trying to get myself ready for work. I had to surrender my plan for the morning and let go of control over how I expected my day to go.

Or, take the recent slime craze that all the preteen middle-school girls seem to be into. If you haven’t heard of it yet, imagine large amounts of glue, combined with Borax (a product I had once assumed had been relegated to the dark ages of hand laundry washing) and mixed in to this gob of goo can be glitter, sequins, small puffy balls of Styrofoam, smelly hand lotion or other hard-to-clean items that I can guarantee you will find on your floors, in your hair and yes, in the dog poop. I would love for that phase to surrender itself to the trend authorities and move its way out the adolescent door, along with my 9 year-old son’s plastic bottle flipping fixation.

Surrendering is all about letting go of control, or at least the pretense of it, and I don’t know about you, but as women I think that’s especially hard for us to do. As a working mother, sometimes the only thing that can bring me a modicum of peace is knowing that, “By goodness, even if the laundry is piled up, we’ve missed a dentist appointment, the school is calling me again and magazine deadlines are banging down my door, then my bed is going to be made, and look pretty, so that when I walk into my room at the end of a long day, controlled comfort awaits me.” And so, I wrestle back some small margin of control from the tight grip of life, who often laughs at my petty attempts to believe that I have a say over what my middle schooler thinks she is going to be doing without my knowing that will make slime on carpet look like creative art, because who can fault a kid for creative expression? I’ll take creative expression over a planned rebellion any day.

Ultimately, what I’m trying to convey in so many words (see, I love words!) is that I’m surrendering a little bit of my life, my story, to TWM readers, and anyone else who might be able to glean insight, perspective, or that golden gift that I try to convey with other’s women’s stories—the comforting presence of another woman who is scrapping through the slime, the drama, and the unmade beds of life just like you are, trying to find her place of meaning in the world. There is hope and transformative power to be found in the sharing of our stories, something that we’ve seen time and time again at TWM.

It has been my honor to help other women surrender their stories over the last eleven years as a writer and editor of TWM, so it’s about time I start surrendering mine in the Editor’s Blog. It’s not easy to surrender, especially if it’s a dream, a piece of your heart, or something you aren’t proud of and would rather no one know. But I’ve learned that in the act of surrendering, your hands are open to seek other dreams and opportunities, gaining a freedom that you never knew you were lacking, and grabbing on to other hands to hold and help pull you along to the other side of the chasm we call, “letting go.”

Surrendering is a daily choice, sometimes a minute-by-minute choice if absolutely nothing in your life is going the way you want it to, and the tragedies and hardships are mounting in front of the flimsy door that you are trying to keep closed against insurmountable odds. For me, a huge part of the fear of surrendering my own story is best described by author Prissy Elrod, the TWM December-January 2015 cover woman, who said, “Once I put my story out there I felt that I was suddenly naked and saying, ‘Quick! Give me some clothes!’”

So, I guess surrendering your story is a little bit like feeling naked (and afraid!), but knowing that it’s too late to put the clothes back on, and once liberated, you don’t really want to anyway. If anything, it’ll be good creative therapy for me to shed some of the layers of my life without resorting to slime-making or bottle flipping…And trying to be funny when my children certainly don’t appreciate or respect my humor. Until the next story surrender, my hand is reaching out for yours… let’s take the leap, together.