Updated: Jun 15, 2021
The heart that floats atop my almond milk latte is still there. Writing in a coffeeshop in Newberg, Oregon, I notice this for the first time: No matter how I tip my cup, jostle it around, the heart remains intact. No matter how much I drink, or how many sips I take from the cup, the heart is STILL THERE. Why have I never noticed that before?
You know those times when everything comes together at just the right moment? When all conditions are perfectly ordinary, yet the feeling is sweet and real, and unforgettable? That's this very moment as I sit in this coffee shop, feeling deep joy that is indescribable. And I know, in my heart, that an unasked question that has been at the back of my mind for years has suddenly been answered.
I've been searching for the thing that makes me happy no matter what. The thing that is me and defines me uniquely from all other humans on the planet. I've been told to "follow my desire" and that has remained a mystery for me most of my life, because what should I want?
I used to coach students who were at risk of dropping out, or who had no educational direction. There were so many that their stories seem to mix around in my memory, the details blending and overlapping. But there was one young man who had just finished his military service who came to me with a desperate look in his eye. I caught it when his guard was down, catching a glimpse of it in his hazel eyes.
"I need help with choosing a major" "Okay, let's explore that...what did you love to do as a child?" After giving it some thought, and a few beginnings of sentences, he seemed to make up his mind. He looked me in the eye and said, "Look, it's like this. I had a really dysfunctional childhood and I don't remember wanting to do anything but have a normal life. I'm married to a wonderful woman and I have a son. I want to be the best husband and father and live a happy life, so truthfully, I don't really care what I do as long as I can graduate and get a good job."
That was years ago and I will never forget that. For those of us who had profound challenges as children, a "normal" and happy life IS the dream. And when we, through grace and learning and never giving up finally achieve that, there seems to be nothing else to want. When it comes time to choose, we don't always have "that thing" in our consciousness.
So, here I am, in a coffee shop, wondering what the thing is for me. Aside from my career choices, aside from my skills and certifications. Children grow up, relationships change, but we will always remain with ourselves. The heart remains.
I have felt the depths of despair, felt lost and abandoned by the Cosmos. I have felt dutiful satisfaction and sometimes fulfillment from doing what I was supposed to do - you know, partner, mother, employee, sister, friend, grandmother, entrepreneur, citizen. But something inside me keeps holding out for The Thing.
And today, as I drink my latte, and eat my poppyseed muffin looking out at the rainy Oregon summer day, I know it's simpler than I think and bigger than I can imagine. The heart always remains no matter how much life jostles us around, or takes from us. The fact that we are here, today, makes that difference and if we give ourselves enough grace and love, paying attention to the ordinary moments, we can feel the thing that gives our heart its shape. From there, we can take the next step to dream the next chapter.