A Lesson from Heart Valves...
If at any point in time the heart happens to open, we fall in love. If at any given point in time it happens to close, the love stops. If the heart happens to hurt, we get angry, and if we stop feeling it altogether we get empty.
Seems like we could all learn a lot from a heart valve...
As the above quote illustrates, the heart opens and closes the flow of blood through the body. It does this over and over again most of the time without our knowledge, or at least attention. It is just there operating in the background. All the fucking time. Occasionally, we pay attention. When the valves get stuck, when they hurt, when they stop working all together. But most of the time, we take for granted that the heart pumps, opening and closing over and over again, as we busy ourselves with what we call “living.” Unaware that the whole secret to life occurs in our chest every day with every beat.
Of course, the heart is much more metaphysical than its gross motor functions. The heart we have given all the responsibilities of love. It emanates from our chests, radiates through our bodies, permeates our flesh and causes a lot of trouble in our lives...because to live is to love, each time one of those valves opens we are reminded again to love and each time one closes we are reminded how it feels to not love. Each time a valve sticks, we are hurt and injured and each time the valve refuses its purpose, we empty. It is the basic ethereal structure of the heart.
For me it was closed for a long time. My life was lived more on the side of when each valve closed. I was aware of that. I think I welcomed it. I was unconcerned with love on the open side. Preferring instead to lock life down. Ensuring that each valve closed, sealed itself off, no leaking.
Then I really gave my heart to another for the first time. And he was careless, or perhaps just too focused on his own closed valves. Who really knows. But loving him, all of him, even his broken and unattractive parts, made me change perspective...I suddenly became more aware of the opening valves. I felt the rush of feeling, the coursing of blood throughout my body. The flooding of feeling, delivering life giving force and vitality to limbs, organs and flesh long ignored. And I came to a fuller life.
Then he left. And my heart stopped. No, not literally. I was lucky. But I hurt. And I got angry. That was my emotion. That was my real overarching feeling when he left, rage. So I raged. And I allowed myself the luxury of anger until I found that there was none left. And then tears came. Apparently when one only focuses on the closing off forever, there is a lot of attendant build up...and so I cried. A lot. And now I can’t stop. But because I live in the middle of the opening and the closing, I don’t care anymore. Let those fuckers flow...I am grateful today for the tears having lived so long in the desert of my own emotions.
When the torrential crying subsided, I stopped feeling it altogether. I wanted to not feel. I wanted to be numb and so I tried. And I got empty. Lots of missed connections, missed opportunities, lovely people who glanced off my life, me too empty to connect. And so I walked through that wasteland too.
And I believe, I say believe because I haven’t really a clue, that I have now been delivered to a new place, where I am less concerned with the machinations of my heart. I no longer protect it at all costs, nor do I throw it away on useless endeavors. I guard my heart from the steeliness of anger, as I know how painful it is when I hurt myself by confusing love for a myriad of other things: loneliness, horniness, tenderness, friendship, boredom. Love is not any of those things because all of those things seek satisfaction and with love, there is only opening and closing forever. There is no time, until death, that satisfaction can live in any extreme. The valve must open and it must shut. It cannot remain in either position forever. It needs them both to continue to live, thrive and exist at all.
So I have found that perhaps the satisfaction lies in the contentment with the process. The appreciation of the delicate balance of opening and closing. Allowing the idea of one being better than the other to flow away just like the blood that is pumped throughout my body. Loving is both, it is opening and it is closing. It cannot be otherwise.
The pain I feel is really only in my mind. My heart just does its thing while I attribute all sorts of crazy shit to it. My heart just keeps on beating in my chest, unaware really, of all the import I throw its way.
A valve is good at keeping stuff out but only for a moment.
A valve is good at allowing liquid to pass through but again, only for a moment.
A valve’s true purpose might be in the build up on either side, and that getting lost in our preoccupation with the opening and closing. It is the blood that pumps and flows that brings love to all it touches. It matters less whether I feel it after it is opened or closed, it matters more that I allow myself to feel it at all.
I have lived this life closed off.
I have lived this life wide open.
Neither really worked.
Today I strive to live in the middle, noticing, appreciating all the opening and closing. Acknowledging that I need both, as do you. It might be, perhaps, that the build up before and the release after is what love is all about, the savoring of the feeling before it is released and the feeling of freedom upon its release to the other side...
Perhaps the heart valve in its rudimentary function shows us this most basic truth: it matters less whether you are opening or closing, it is just that in order to keep on living, you have to be aware that you are doing both, you will alway do both, because that is how we love, live. We open, we close, and the goal is to not decide one is better than the other. But more simply, to be present for the process, to notice and pay attention to the feelings that engender us to prematurely close it off or let it fly. Perhaps, just maybe, love is more about being present for the ride, because unlike a heart contained in the closed system of a body, love abounds. Love is uncontainable. Love permeates all substructures of our lives, but we have to be aware. We have to pay attention, we have to be willing to stop trying to only shut it down, or flood the gates. Satisfaction and contentment in life and love come from existing in the middle of holding on and letting go and just allowing that to be ok. Enjoyment it turns out is more in the wonder of the ride, rather than the decisions we make along the way. Feeling the closing, and the opening, make us appreciate it all if we can stay in the precious middle where love flows.