Late last night, as the minute hand on the kitchen clock ticked its way toward the number twelve to open up the first moments of Valentine’s Day like a red envelope, I sat reading the last lines of Ellen Burstyn’s autobiography Lessons in Becoming Myself. I was struck by a sentence that spoke straight to my soul:
You can achieve what’s in your heart if you make room there for the love that is necessary to write from. When you feel that love, you can use your blood for ink and it will be a valentine to God. And it will be truth.
Blood for ink. A valentine to God. Truth. I sat shaking with the power of that statement, tears leaking from my eyes, as if an angel, the muse herself, or my own soul spoke the words straight into my being. For years I longed to write, to create, from the deepest, most eternal part of my Self, to move beyond talent and ego and truly tap the vein that speaks of infinity with the intimacy of this one, precious moment. I ached to fill the longing with belonging, to extend from my core a line grace to others, connecting my heart to theirs, breath to breath, miracle to miracle, God to God.
Yet I was plagued with fear. Self doubt. There was a long stretch there when I wouldn’t pick up the pen or even peck at the keyboard unless it was for business. I’d wandered so far from home I couldn’t hear my own soul call me for dinner, beckon me to the table where I could be nourished. And how can you nourish others–create from your authentic self–when you’re starving? Empty? Malnourished?
Ellen’s really got something when she addresses the urge to create by directing us to “make room for love.” It begins with self love, with a desire to accept and include every bit of you, every piece of your life fabric. All the darkness, all the pain, loneliness, rejection, condemnation, shame and sadness…find them. Make room for them at the table where they can be nourished, loved.
And those ugly parts? And those vulnerabilities? And fears? They need love too. Call them in time for supper and make a space for them by the hearth. And those talents and gifts–those wild abandons, those surges of genius–make room for those too. Let them be loved and encouraged. Let them take up their space, fully. Rather than hiding them for fear of rejection, or demeaning them with modesty, let them shine. Let them have their due. Make room for all. Make room for love. Include, include.
One of my favorite film lines is from Chocolat. The people of quaint French village, under the rule of an old-order, dictator-like mayor, are suffering a colorless life, segregated from pleasure and freedom. Individuality is outlawed. Conformity is praised. Creativity and tolerance are eschewed in favor of discipline and judgment. After the mayor suffers a personal and professional loss of his own and realizes the pitfalls of a see-saw life of abstinence and penitence, he sits in church on Easter Sunday reconsidering the dogma that has defined his life and the lives of his people. He listens as a young, boyish priest addresses the congregation with simple wisdom:
I think we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.
And this is how I think of us. As humans. Being.
And in our being, the need to include, to embrace and allow is paramount. Wholeness is akin to holiness. And for that sacred union, we need all of us. All the parts of us that have been segregated, outlawed, rejected. All the parts of us that have been decimated by judgment, that have been told they’re too big, too bright or too much. Or not enough. Not nearly enough. When we make room for all aspects of ourselves to sit and sup at the table of love, in the center of our heart, our very lives become a valentine to God and a lullaby for humanity.
Whatever we create from that place of inclusion–be it a smile or a song, a film or a neighborhood carpool–pulses with a love that breathes life. The word inspire literally means to breath in. And this is the act of inspiring: to breathe in the love that fully embraces the multi-dimensional magnificence of your being so that in your exhale, you pass along permission for others to breathe in theirs. Breath to breath. Miracle to miracle. God to God.
And this is my prayer:
May we be an inspiration to each other. And may the ink of my words flow from the vein of my heart, a valentine to you. To me. To Truth. And to God.