This morning I propped the kids on the couch with a bowl of oatmeal and headed out for a cold, winter morning run with the dogs. It seemed a necessary undertaking (as did this post) before the wind of Christmas sweeps us away for the next number of days.
The sun was shining on newly fallen snow causing the entire untrampled ground surface to glisten like lights on a mirror. The temperature hovered around -15C which is the kind of cold that makes the condensation from your breath build icicles on your eyelashes. But I had dressed for it. Looking through these sparkling frames around my lashes gave an effect that no Photoshopped Christmas card could ever accomplish. A moving picture of magic all around me.
A few days ago I played my first game of squash in a very long time with a seasoned player and had to take a couple of days off of any form of exercise. If you’ve ever played the game, you know what I mean. I had squash butt. Which means you can’t lower yourself onto a toilet or down a single stair or bend to pick anything up, or get yourself out of bed or into a car for a couple of days. I felt 80 years old. Yet, exceptionally pleased to be back in the game so to speak.
The game of squash to me, with the right partner, is an exercise in all manner of expression. I spend the 45 minutes listening to my heart pounding in my chest, wiping sweat from my brow, breathing heavily, giggling at my follies, cursing at my mistakes and enjoying the power of a really good shot every once in a very little while. All of this is shared with another person. That is trust and intimacy in its deepest form. In order to turn purple and slog through such a thing in front of someone, you really need to trust them.
My daughter asked me why I was limping about yesterday and I explained the way you do to a 6 year old in simple terms. When we exercise, we are making ourselves stronger. In order for your muscles to build, they have to first break themselves apart. And that feeling hurts but it is just your body telling you that you are getting stronger.
What a beautiful metaphor for the heart. We have heard about how we can be stronger in the broken places. How a broken bone is stronger when it heals. But when you have experienced a broken heart (and I’m certain we all have in one way or another) it is very difficult to see that this ‘injury’ is one that will lead to greater strength in the future.
These holidays are a time that we get to learn how to open our hearts to the world. We are exposed to all manner of challenges to get ourselves ready for the festivities and offer as much as we can to those in need. People get frayed and fragile during these emotional times. And we forget to take care of ourselves and wonder why we end up sick or crying or mad or feeling guilty when we're supposed to be filled with only joy and cheer.
Christmas (or any other celebration that you observe) becomes an opportunity to break apart. And find yourself at the end of the calendar year healed in some strange way from the process. Because we are given the opportunity to put ourselves back together in a way that is more stable than ever before.
May your heart be broken this season. Wide open. Taking in all of the wonder and beauty of the world around you. Letting go of the pain or the worry or the guilt or the fear. May you find strength in the broken places.
Almost like somebody put on shiny, ice-sparkled glasses when you took the opportunity to run through a winter wonderland.
Happy holidays to all.