|This post was inspired by the novel A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker. Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. Join From Left to Write on February 4 as we discuss A Well-Tempered Heart. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.|
One of the things that I love about the book club, From Left to Write, is that we don't actually do traditional book reviews. We write posts that are inspired by the books we have the privilege of reading. Last year, I got to read the prequel to this book, On Hearing Heartbeats. I loved it! It's one of my absolute favorites so when I saw that we would have the opportunity to continue the story of Julia, I absolutely signed up.
Do you believe in serendipity? It's defined as finding pleasant surprises you weren't looking for or expecting. I tend to take it a step further when those surprises seem to be a small multitude pointing in the same direction.
It took me three days to read this book. Despite the fact that it is not a long book. Despite the fact that I am a fast reader. Because not all surprises we find are pleasant, and it made me recognize things within myself that I typically ignore, avoid, or deny. (Nu Nu would say I was reading the signs. And Nu Nu would be right.) It took me three days to read this book and a fourth day to come to terms with what I found.
You see, for the past four days, I have been a heart out of tune.
If you've read my previous blogs, you've probably caught on that I'm largely optimistic, cheerful, prone to laughing, and maybe a pinch clever and creative. In fact, that's a pretty good description for me the vast, vast, VAST majority of the time. For as bright and cheerful and confident a person as I usually am, every now and then... I am not.
And this book resonated with that part of me that I don't frequently mention and even more frequently don't acknowledge. The part of me that gets sad. Agitated. Frustrated. Angry. Doubtful. Fearful. And worst of all-- with absolutely no obvious outward provocation for any of them. Melancholy. I don't mention them, and more often than not don't act on them...but it doesn't mean I don't -feel- them. I'm still just a human. And sometimes, my heart is out of tune.
My husband cornered me and asked me, "What's wrong?" (He can read me truly and truly see me, even when I would hide from myself.) But I find myself divided in answering. Because the easy answer, the quick answer, the answer I give that he accepts for now but doesn't really buy of "Nothing's wrong." is both true... and not true. Truth: There is no -thing- that is actually wrong. But still...
I am a heart that has (briefly) fallen out of tune.
For the three days it took me to read this book, I knew that it was one of those time. I was easily irritated. Easily agitated. Frustrated. Questioning my life choices: Have I made the right ones? For me? For my family? Is my dream worth pursuing? Am I talented enough? Can I do this? What if I can't? What if I'm not? What if... "What if" can be such a terrible, paralyzing question. So here's a better question, taken from the book:
"What is important to you?"
The simplest question he could think to ask.
But unlike Julia, even now, even full of self doubt, I could easily answer this question: My beloved, our children, our critters, and making art.
To KNOW this, and to still have doubts. To KNOW this with all of my soul and to still have irritation. Agitation. Frustration. The questions.
I drove home tonight dreading this post because I'm usually very good at ignoring that portion of me that are the emotions we all feel and don't want to claim as our own. Weakness. Frailty. Particularly when they're irrational. When we know that others in the world face so much worse than we. Endure so much worse. So much more real. And as I drove, I realized that I had succumbed to the implication that having blessings means we're not allowed a single moment of despair or unhappiness.
Tonight, as I drove home thinking these same circular questions that have plagued me for the last three days, it was a seed of anger, a kernel within me threatening to blossom and explode all over the ones I love at home without provocation. Anger at myself threatening to volcano over those that I love, innocent bystandards. And all because I was tired of these questions. I was tired of the doubt. And the fear. And I realized that I had accepted a falsehood. This falsehood, this accepted belief, that I am not allowed to be sad or frustrated. And this falsehood had set my heart out of tune.
And I knew as I took the second to last turn headed to my house that for the last three days, I have been a heart out of tune. Out of sync with the rightness I am usually blessed to occupy. Out of sync with the love I intellectually know surrounds me.
As I pulled into my driveway, my children came out of my house to greet me while I checked the mail. And I looked up and felt that kernel of anger melting. In that moment, I could see the love they hold for me-- even when I'm melancholy and irrational and irritated.
Tonight, I needed a hug. And my family gave them to me. They helped to set my heart to rights. To tune it back and remind me that the only question that really matters is "What is important to you?"
And I already know the answer to that one.