The courage to risk your heart

I have been plumbing the depths of my soul looking for some words of motivation or of hope. All I come up with is flat, meaningless platitudes. I tell myself things will get better. I tell myself I will learn how to cope with this pain. I tell myself that things aren't as bad as they seem.

I am such a bad liar. A few years ago at Lent, I gave up lying to myself. It has become a habit to be personally truthful and I think that for the most part, that's a good thing. But it leaves me unable to self-comfort. I can't tell myself little lies and believe them, the way I used to.

But I can still live in denial. It is a comfortable blend of not examining where things are or admitting how desperate I feel. I don't have to lie to myself to do this, I just don't spend time in self-reflection. I avoid examining how I feel. I push myself into other things; mindless things, like marathons of The Walking Dead or Supernatural, or hours of mowing my lawn - using the riding mower makes this possible - while I circle around trying to get every single strand on my half-acre the same length. I can make an afternoon of this. There was a time when I would have turned to binge-eating to feel better - or maybe to feel nothing - but not now. I suppose I could get drunk, but it has never held that much attraction for me. It just isn't my style.

Unfortunately, denial can't last forever. You wake up one morning and the truth is staring you in the face. Maybe it's the morning when you planned to go get a hair-cut and you know when you try to move that getting to the salon is going to be beyond your capability. Or it's that afternoon when you're at work and even though you are busy and focused, you find yourself falling asleep at your desk because the fatigue is so extreme. Or maybe it's that evening when you've spent the day reaching out to someone you love only to be ignored, as though you don't matter. You realize that maybe you never mattered, maybe you were living in denial all along.

The plain fact is that denial ends. After a while, you can't live with your head in the sand. You have to make choices. You choose to get up and do what you can. You choose to have that fourth cup of coffee even though you know it will make you sick, because the work has to be done. You choose to stop reaching out even though the love remains unchanged, because the pain of the other person's silence is too great to continue to bear. Reality sets in. It is cold and hard, and there is nothing to be done but accept it.

So here's another platitude. Out of acceptance grows serenity. Or does it? I don't know. I don't feel very serene. I don't feel resigned. I don't want to accept being sick, or losing the love I've spent so long nurturing. I want to live pain-free, I want to be active, I want to love and be loved in return. I don't want to give up the things that make life meaningful.

Maybe that's enough. Maybe acceptance is overrated. Maybe it is better to fight, to strive, and not to give up. It doesn't take a lot of courage to risk your life - we all do that, every day, in one way or another. Every time we step out on the street or into our cars, we are in danger. But it takes all the courage in the world to risk your heart. To be open, to be vulnerable, to choose to fight instead of just giving in - these things are not easy. They take valor. Doing these things means admitting to ourselves that we still have something to lose. Maybe that's the hardest thing to admit. This doesn't mean we don't accept where we are or how things are, it means we choose not to fade into oblivion rather than acknowledging our fear and pain. We choose to be proactive, to work for healing, and for reconciliation. We work to find peace.

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