Over lunch last week with my friend Jennifer, I found myself pounding the table and declaring, “I. need. food.” I was already three bites into a sandwich, but I wasn’t talking about that kind of chow.
In response to a simple, “How are you?” I launched into a tearful tirade about the unbearable emptiness I’ve been feeling.
Since October, I’ve been consumed with a red-hot craving. I’ve wanted filling things, fatty things, all the butter, and then some more butter slathered on top. Since I’m a little bit of an overachiever, I thought maybe I was trying to get a head start on holiday gorging.
But as Jennifer graciously listened, I realized that I don’t actually need more croissants or popcorn or chocolate pudding or guacamole. Really, I had, I have, a soul hunger, a life hunger, a heart hunger. Maybe we all do.
Maybe all of the holiday overeating in our country is a misplaced response of all the heart-hungry people, gobbling and slurping and stuffing, when they actually need to feed a different kind of need.
I would love ‘Tis the Season to mean more than to eat extra sugar cookies or go to a thousand parties or buy extra stuff to go with the stuff we already have and don’t know what to do with. What if ‘twas the season for quiet evening walks, for spontaneous bouts of meaningful dialogue with neighbors, or creating works of art in solidarity? What if ‘twas the season to listen to our hearts?
I’m just going to go ahead and say that ‘tis, because starved hearts create anxious, fearful, and defensive people—people who will often do worse than pound their fists during lunch table tirades. For the sake of safety and sanity and serenity, our hearts need airtime to make some requests.
Which will vary, from person to person and even within the same person, depending. Sometimes, hearts ask to play. Or sweat. Or clean house, metaphorically or literally. Or rest. Experiment. Adventure. A galaxy of possibilities.
As for my heart, right now it needs substance and ease.
Over the last year, what works for me and what doesn’t—which really comes down to what feeds my heart and what doesn’t—has come into sharp focus.
The stuff that feeds my heart, well I can sink right into it. Like the writing sanctuary days I’ve been sharing with two kindred spirits a few times a month, since July. Within seconds of gathering, in discussion and in shared free-writes, we put on a pot of tea and go right for the meat of the moment—what’s stirring in our spirits, imaginations, and guts. We don’t need to explain ourselves or what’s at stake in the world. We’re already there. We settle into our respective couch or floor spots, pull out our notebooks and pens, draw a tarot card for some intuitive guidance, and ahhh. Substance. Ease. Instantly, the IV drip to my heart kicks in, and I relax.
The stuff that doesn’t feed me? It’s all perceptibly fraught, icky, and angsty. Not only does this stuff, these things, fail to nourish; like tapeworms, they feed off of me. Meetings wherein I feel relentlessly awkward, encounters in which my voice dilutes into something weak and lukewarm, surface gatherings or chitchat.
Every time I engage with the tapeworm stuff, I find myself shaking my head, folding my arms, looking up to the heavens and down to the earth, and shouting,
No! I need food. I’m sorry, I didn’t order this Dorito of a moment in line at the pharmacy with the side of extra-crispy passive-aggressive power struggle. Truly, I don’t want this Twinkie of a conversation, stuffed with a petty Facebook fight . I cannot abide this iceberg lettuce level lecture. I. NEED. FOOD.
Ravenous for ease and substance, my heart will not be satisfied with anything less.
So, now that I’m aware that I don’t need to eat all of the crinkle cut French fries to fill up, how do I feed my heart? How do you? How do we?
We get to know our hearts. Simply ask our hearts, what are you hungry for? And wait for the answer to arise. No bullying. We simply sit in front of a blank piece of paper and breathe. Let the answer pulse out from our heart centers, surge up over our shoulders and down our arms and into our fingertips, until they’re tingling and ready to pick up a pen or oil pastels or sploodge into a pool of finger paint. We let our hearts speak.
When the answer comes, even if our minds deem it too silly or serious or complicated or simple, we listen and find a way to take action, as soon as possible. Like right then, or at least within the next twenty-four hours.
And that, dear creatures, should you choose to accept it, is your three-part FHP activity for the week:
- Ask your heart for what it hungers.
Like me, you can still eat the mushroom and sausage stuffing leftovers or rescue the last piece of pumpkin pie, stranded amidst crumbs in the glass pie plate, but make sure to clarify your appetites and attend to them. Bruce is right. Everybody’s got a hungry heart, including you.
So why not lay out an irresistible feast for your own particular, precious, ravenous heart?
Feed your heart, and know that your heart will feed you.
Photo credit: “Eat” by Charles Nadeau is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.