December 26 - The Heart Remembers

Around the holidays, close relationships often bring up many old memories of the heart. We so look forward to being with our family but often find ourselves being angry or hurt when we are around them.

It reminds me of a line in the movie, Seabiscuit. The injured jockey is speaking to the one who has been chosen to take his place in the race. He was telling him how to use the whip on his beloved horse. “Lightly, two flicks,” he said, “and never on the left side, for they had hit him there when he was a baby.”

Where have each of us been “hit” when we were babies or youngsters? And how open do those wounds remain? Are you aware of your “sore spots”? Have you taken responsibility for their healing?

As an example, my mouth was often treated to a “soap bath” when I said something as a child that my parents judged to be inappropriate. Today, each time I begin to speak something new, my mouth remembers the bitter taste of the soap and humiliation, especially when I am in a situation where I do not know how my words will be received. I hesitate, perhaps only a nanosecond, and a brief flicker of fear appears. Today I am able to recognize it tenderly, and I remind myself that this fear belongs to yesterday and that the world needs to hear what I have to say, even if it doesn’t yet understand my message.

I don’t drink away my fear; I don’t eat it away; and I don’t swallow it…I just acknowledge it and provide enough new information to myself that I now know I am safe and I can speak.

I once worked with a woman who had been beaten severely as a child. If you said anything needed to be changed in her work, she would start to cry and say she was “being attacked.” Her boss may have just said something like, “I would like this margin to be wider,” and she would dissolve into tears. It was easy to feel a sense of frustration around her.

Fortunately, the amazing physician in our office had a great understanding of the power of past childhood wounds. He would have us all come together at lunch to discuss our lives, what our filters were, and how we could learn new listening habits and support each other while we were learning. It created a safe, intimate atmosphere in which to work.

May his spirit of understanding inspire us all to recognize and to win our own challenging “races,” and in the process, always to remember to be compassionate of others and, as well, of ourselves.

Who in your life has a tender “left side”? Are you willing to take the extra steps to be gentle and kind and understanding of their bruises? Will you ask them what they needed as children, and when possible, will you see that they have this available to them today? Will you honor their pain and surround it with gentleness? Will you give their hearts something new to remember?

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