Sunday, February 16, 2014

From the Heart

In honor of  Valentine's Day this year, I wore a pair of silver heart earrings. I have had them for a very long time. When I was in sixth grade, the boy I liked came up to me after school and gave them to me, along with a single yellow daffodil. I don’t remember what I said to him, only that I stuffed the flower in my backpack before I got on the bus. Because what if someone saw? I had never seen a kid carrying a flower on a school bus. And I might not have known the word for it, but carrying a flower on a school bus seemed like a very ostentatious thing to do.

What strikes me now is that the boy had guts. Especially since my response was less-than-gutsy. I loved the gift but it also made me shake all over, and the idea of having to explain the flower—Where’d you get that? Who gave it to you? Is he your boyfriend?—was completely over the top. But the boy—he was courageous.

I learned from Brené Brown that the word courage comes from the Latin word for heart, cor. Like love, courage is from the heart. And I think the two need each other. They seem to be always entwined. Love (and I mean all kinds, all forms,) risks ridicule and rejection and pain and misunderstanding and mistakes and entanglements and messiness. It forces uncomfortable things like realness and honesty and transparency. It is this totally gorgeous and warm and scary thing. It requires courage. And in the end, I suspect that love is also what creates courage.

So I wore the earrings to honor a sixth grade boy and the person I hope he became. But also because I would like to throw out all my cynicism about Valentine’s Day. Because love is way bigger and more complicated and harder and better than I ever imagined. Isn't that why we spend so many years giving valentines to every kid in the class?

To honor the day this year I wore not only the silver heart earrings, but also the bright flower necklace Husband gave me one Christmas because he saw me fall in love with the colors, and the gifts Youngest showered me with during the 2nd grade class party: a paper bracelet, a giant plastic cupcake ring, a puffy green heart-shaped sticker that said Hugs. I wore them all for love and courage and everything else from the heart. 

May my understanding of them increase every year.

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