(This is a guest post from Laura Simms)
When is my heart the most full?
This question has a simple and obvious answer. Obvious to me and anyone who knows me well. Or has happened to walk past a PetSmart with me.
Animals crack my heart open. They make it wide, expanding what it can hold. They melt it, making it soft and vulnerable. They delight it, pushing water out my eyes and making every cell do jumping jacks. Sometimes in a quiet, tender way. Other times in a hysterical riot where my own breath competes with the joy that seizes my entire chest.
Do I have love for people? You bet; I’m not tradin’ in Mama for a mouse.
But this wild love, this unbridledbreathlessunspoken connection I hold with animals instructs me daily on how to love. More fully. More deeply. And with tail-wagging innocence and excitement.
And so I, who bear the scar of a raccoon bite, who has regularly accessorized with dog hair or cat hair or rabbit hair, who discovered I was allergic to hairless mice by rubbing them on my face in adoration, declare my love.
Henry, you are the handsomest rabbit on the block and you know it. You show me how easy it is to receive love: just hunker down and bask.
Ewok, you are scared of affection, but you show me how to practice trust when you let me pet your silken head, if only for a moment.
Lily, you show me that we are not meant for leashes. There is too much of this world to sniff out, and far too many curiosities to walk in a straight line.
Lizard of the window pane, I look for you everyday. I see you stalking for your supper, and resting on a leaf. You are lithe and quick and you survive. You show me to keep at it and do what it takes.
Roxie, beloved raccoon of my childhood: you showed me that just being there can be a tremendous gift. And that bananas are a terrific dessert.
To the nameless millions who are slaughtered for food in our twisted, industrialized agribruise, sometimes I cry for you. Not that you will end up between two buns with a pickle on the side, but for the diminished life you will lead until then. You teach me that behind the fight for every reform are real lives. Real stories, real families, real feelings.
Leroy, you showed me that you don’t need long arms to “hug.” A simple, heartfelt greeting always translates.
Sugar, in you I see that love does not sit in a lap that makes demands.
Harry and Lilly, you school me in play. It can be the same game with the same person over and over again and still be delightful each time.
Higgy, you are proof that just being who you are is reason enough to be loved. Adored, even.
Amigo, you showed me that sometimes we just haven’t be taught how to do what’s good for us and that we need someone to show us the way.
Ring, you taught me that you don’t have to understand, you just have to listen.
And Reba. My dearest Reba. My best dog friend. No one has ever greeted me like you with your gazelle jumps. No one has ever made me anticipate the opening of a door or walk around the block like you. A festival every time! You love so openly, so without fear, and with so much expectation.
We humans get told to release from expectations and not to burden ourselves or others with them. We’ll get hurt. Disappointed. And it will be our fault for having the expectation. But not in Reba’s world. In Reba’s world, you give love and get love. It’s a given exchange, like breathing or photosynthesis. Not taken for granted, but openly and gleefully expected.
Reba, you teach me to expect love. To greet the ones I love with the energy of a bounding hoofed beast, and to meet the ones I don’t know with an open heart and happy face. You teach me to give and give and give and that it will be returned, returned, returned.
You teach me to ask for what I want, and that the enthusiasm of the ask can be irresistible. That open-heartedness opens hearts. That wide eyes widens eyes. And that when you love without putting limits on it, it creates so much energy that you literally can’t stand still. You create more than your body can contain and the overflow is discharged in laughs and jumps and pets and nuzzles and yips and yelps.
And these are the reasons I lay nose to nose with rabbits, commune with dogs, and watch squirrels choose pecans. They are my teachers, and as they effortlessly live their lessons, I learn to love.
Career coach Laura Simms wants to give you the strategy, tools, and inspiration to thrive at the fulfilling work meant just for you. Work that feeds your purse and your pulse. Work that’s about purpose and profit. In other words: she wants you to get paid for being you. Learn more with this free training series at createasfolk.com.
A dear friend gave me the following poem, framed, as a wedding gift.
And–today’s the day I’m getting married to my one and only lovey-love.
The True Love by David Whyte
There’s a faith in loving fiercely the one who is rightfully yours
especially if you have waited years and especially if part of you never
believed you could deserve this loved and beckoning hand held
out to you this way.
I am thinking of faith now and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are worthy of in this world.
Years ago in the Hebrides I remember an old man
who would walk every morning on the gray stones
to the shore of baying seals, who would press his
hat to his chest in the blustering salt wind and say his
prayer to the turbulent Jesus hidden in the waters.
And I think of the story of the storm and the people
waking and seeing the distant, yet familiar figure,
far across the water calling to them.
And how we are all preparing for that abrupt waking
and that calling and that moment when we have to say yes!
Except it will not come so grandly, so biblically,
but more subtly, and intimately in the face
of the one you know you have to love.
So that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them we find, everything holds us,
and everything confirms our courage.
And if you wanted to drown, you could,
But you don’t, because finally, after all
this struggle and all these years,
you don’t want to, anymore.
You’ve simply had enough of drowning
and you want to live, and you want to love.
And you’ll walk across any territory,
and any darkness, however fluid,
and however dangerous to take the one
hand and the one life, you know belongs in yours.
(This is a guest post from Jamie Ridler
“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Hafiz of Shiraz
I’m in love with you.
Each morning, as I pad into my studio and look out the window at the passing seasons reflected in the backyard tree and our expanse of sky, I fall in love again.
Each night, as I curl into my cozy bed, loved husband by my side, safe and sound, loved and loving, having lived a full day, I fall in love again.
It’s not always an easy love. Some days are dark. Some nights are long.
Sometimes I despair, feel alone, get enraged.
I disappoint and am disappointed.
But you help me to not give up by offering a crocus or a kindness, fresh coffee and the smell of fresh-cut grass, public radio and public libraries, the beach and the wind, raspberries, theatre and smiles from strangers. Not to mention Paris. And chandeliers. And cozy comforters. And cookies.
I could go on but it all comes down to this:
I love you.
And I want you to know, I’m here for you.
I’m going to show up every day. Sometimes foggy, sometimes sunny, sometimes stormy, but every day, I will show up.
I’m going to offer crocuses and kindness. I’m going smile at strangers. I’m going to offer my gifts as freely as you offer yours.
And I’ll be as honest with my failings, so we can grow and heal together.
Because even though this isn’t always an easy love, it’s the love of a lifetime. We’re in it together, world.
I love you.
Jamie Ridler is a creative living coach and the director of Jamie Ridler Studios. From the Creative Living with Jamie podcast to the Sparkles e-course, Jamie’s coaching helps women find the courage and confidence to embrace their creative selves so they can be the star they are.