Keep Your Heart Open for Love
Standing in the kitchen, I hear his voice from the other room, “Mom, I love you.” Then a pause. “Wait, no, what I wanted to say was, I love you means keep your heart open for love.”
In the months since the youngest child in my life said that to me, I have thought about it almost everyday.
“I love you means keep your heart open for love.”
I’ve been pondering love and its meaning. It seems to be a theme that has come up before for me.
Perhaps love is a feeling, a deep feeling within our hearts and souls that we experience for another person, a child, a partner.
Perhaps love is the feeling we have when we think about that friend who has been there for us over the years without judgment.
We might be able to list all the “things” we love about another person.
We might experience love in the giving of it, in doing things for others to express our love.
We might experience love when we tell others we love them or when they tell us.
But, what does it mean to keep your heart open FOR love?
When I close my eyes and sit with this phrase, it feels like being “open for love” is softness.
It feels like a willingness to perceive love in any situation.
It feels like the ability to receive love in any situation.
It feels like an unconditional acceptance of whatever comes.
It feels like a willingness to love no matter what shows up in front of us.
If feels like a willingness to love no matter what shows up within us.
When he said this to me, I went and wrote it down. I was determined to spend some serious time thinking about it. And, it reminded me that too often I sit in my head.
I often think about love, relationships, and parenting from that head space.
And sometimes I just need to move toward the heart. The sinking-into-it, feeling space.
“Keep your heart open for love.”
There are those moments as parents when tension, stress, and anxiety loom up for us.
We need to be somewhere, do something, or want something different than what is in front of us right now. We want the child to act differently or do something differently. We want to act differently or do something differently.
Often, in those situations, when we’re triggered by something and struggling, we close our hearts.
Have you felt your heart close?
I have. Many times.
It covers itself in protection from what I am afraid will be painful or hurtful.
It happens instantaneously.
When my heart hardens, it feels like I have to pry it open. It just wants to remain hidden.
At the same time, when my heart hardens, I feel the pain of separation and disconnection. Actual pain, right in my chest. Closing my heart means that I close myself to others and I close myself off from myself.
How can we be open for love when we feel stress, anxiety, and deep down below that, fear?
In those moments keeping our hearts open for love when we are afraid or angry seems impossible, doesn’t it?
But here is some of what being open for love means for me.
Keeping my heart open for love is the ability to be open to the way love appears even when it is disguised in something else, maybe something I don’t want to see.
When I have fixed notions of what love should be or look like, then I can’t see the way it shows up when it doesn’t look like that.
What else might “keep your heart open for love” mean?
The ability to feel love in spite of my anger or frustration.
The ability to express love even when I want to hide it away, or even more so, to withhold it from someone (even myself) as punishment.
The ability to risk showing my heart even when I am afraid of getting hurt.
The ability to soften my heart even when I am in pain.
The ability to breathe into that heart space in my chest when the anxiety rises up and the tension overcomes me and I want to yell.
The ability to see the soul of the person next to me, when I just want to see what “they” did “wrong.”
The ability to accept the “wrongness” of a person, a child, and just let it be without interference, or needing to change them.
The ability to see that my need to be right is just fear manifested.
The ability to be uncomfortable and still breathe, soften, open up.
The ability to see in myself all that is good, even when all I want to do is punish myself for not being perfect.
The ability to open my heart to show myself love especially when I don’t feel lovable.
The ability to open my heart for forgiveness, my own, someone else’s, and forgiveness of those who hurt me because they were hurting. Just like I hurt others when I am hurting.
“Keep your heart open for love.”
My journey as a parent has actually been two-fold.
The first has been about living with my commitment to treating a child with the same respect I would give an adult. It has been about my commitment to trusting and loving with as few conditions as I possibly can, on any given day or in any given moment.
The second journey came along after I started the first. But it has been critical to deepening my relationships with the children in my life and with myself.
I have to treat myself with the same respect I would give another adult. I have to be committed to trusting and loving myself with as few conditions as I possibly can, on any given day or in any given moment.
It’s not just for the children in my life. It’s for me.
When my heart is open for love, I can perceive what is in front of me (or within me) with the expansiveness of possibility.
Rather than closing in, I expand and open up.
I connect to my heart, my intuition, and my soul and I see the heart and soul of the person in front of me.
When I can be in that heart space, honoring the other person and myself, as well as trust and justice come forth with ease, even in the midst of fear, anxiety, and frustration.
That is the transformative journey.
Keeping our hearts open for love changes us and it changes our relationships with children.
It allows children to see their own beauty and to know that we see it too.
It keeps children’s hearts open for love, the way they were born.
And it allows us to open our hearts back up for all the love that is around us, that surrounds us, even when we can’t see it.