Radical Acts

by becomingbethany

I spend my third post-divorce Valentine’s Day pondering how incredible love is and how much I have experienced in my life. I am amazed at how we can attempt love over and over again. How often that love is overlooked, disregarded, and even outright rejected. How often our hearts are broken and mended. Still we keep loving and looking to be loved.

In a dim dance hall, I stand alone and listen to people tell their stories of broken hearts and I am seriously in awe of each of the storytellers and the little glimpses of their hearts they share. They are each just so stunningly beautiful and reveal flashes of gold however rough and unpolished. Some of the stories make me laugh and some cause my throat to catch and one or two make my cheeks wet with tears but each is so fully and magically human that I am afraid to breathe too loudly and break the spell.

The couples in the room and on the street walking back to their cars holding one another close do not make me jealous. They make me hope and they make me celebrate. And I silently cheer each one, “You are doing it! You are brave and courageous and doing hard work! And you have found something sacred. Bravo! I hope your love does the work in you it is meant to do. May you be fuller and richer than before you encountered it.”

* * *

I am driving with my sisters back from a day in the mountains and we are catching up on podcasts. This one from On Being was next on the playlist and it was an interesting discussion but the last 10 minutes shook off my drowsiness and made me lean forward to not miss a word:

“I feel that trust is something of a radical act. And I go to great efforts to trust the people around me…For me, it’s a rewarding way to live. That doesn’t mean that people haven’t disappointed me and broken my trust. But it tends — when that happens to me, it tends to be in situations where I never would have anticipated it. And I feel like this does come back to the question of fear. I think there’s some people who feel that nurturing their own fear will be a balm against danger. If you just feel fearful enough and often enough, you’ll save yourself from the dangers of the world. And I don’t think that’s true. I think you get hurt either way…So you either you get to live as a suspicious, wary person, paranoid, who gets hurt, or you get to live as someone who trusts other people and gets hurt.”

“Yes!” My heart and mind shout together.

And I think about how closely tied love and trust are. How we would not have any human connection or relationships or even really conversations without daring love and trust even in small amounts. How the more we risk, the more we have to gain. Or lose. But even in the times of losing, aren’t we somehow gaining? In the giving trust and love, don’t our hearts grow – if we let them? If my choices are to live closed and suspicious or open and vulnerable, I don’t know that I even really have a choice. Even more than the fear of heartbreak, I am afraid of living a small life.

* * *

I get to watch one of my heroes at work and it is inspiring. She asks big questions but leaves so much room for answers that the air feels warm, generous, and inviting. She knows how to create space to probe the biggest questions of life through art, science, philosophy, and religion that allows the interviewee to speak honestly but also not frighten the listener. It is a skill that few have and one that is beautiful and also a little unnerving to observe in action.

She asks the artist why he does what he does. He answers that the work of an artist is to dig deep and uncover Truth. He explains, “Each artist is finding their own way to clean the glass to look toward something.” He goes on to say that each artist is looking for something and by sharing their art, they are inviting the viewer to look for it too. And the humility is that maybe the viewer will find something you could not find yourself.

Cleaning the glass. Making things clearer. And trusting the viewer to see what you are pointing that glass toward – maybe even more clearly than you did?

* * *

All of this feels like grace. Stepping heart-first out into the unknown and leaving the space for whatever might happen. Venturing love and trust and sharing your view of the world and waiting for others to respond however they will. It is a radical act because it is the greatest adventure and the greatest risk and one we are living every day.

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