Thursday, November 04, 2004


This morning, a dear friend of mine sent me a picture she took with her digital camera. While, as the old saying goes, a picture says a thousand words, this one rather expressed a thousand emotions, zigzagging, conflicting, crashing, embracing.

On the side of a New York City street stood a towering pile of black plastic garbage bags full of the all the things we no longer find worthy of keeping. All the objects we discard like empty Chinese take-out containers, receipts we should probably file away for our accountant (but don't), magazines we've read all the way through (even the horoscopes). But on the side of this pile sat a stuffed pink heart with two arms attached to its side (presumably so the heart could hug you). I looked at the picture for a few seconds and wondered how it wound up there. How could someone just throw a cute little pink heart away, a thoughtful Valentine's Day present, for the garbage men to pick up and throw into the back of a truck with dirty diapers and broken Ikea furniture.

Then I imagined the girl who it probably once belonged to and the way she must have been feeling. The anger and pain she was harboring--so intense and so profound that she couldn't even keep the fuzzy, pillow-like heart. Nostalgia forces us to hold onto things, hide them in our closet for another time when we're feeling secure enough to fondle them and smile. But apparently, not all of us have the potential for such an experience. Some are hurt beyond repair or forgiveness. Ms. Pink Heart Throwaway must have been one of them.

In risk of ruining the poetic metaphor by explicitly spelling out the obvious, heart abandonment seems to be the trend nowadays. I am overwhelmed by the sentiments and expressions of loneliness by my friends, peers, and acquaintances. I've been thinking about them a great deal. And if I could, I would think of one word, one saying, a look, a gesture that would make everything better. And I can tell them that 'it will get better' until I am periwinkle blue in the face but sometimes words fall just as empty as the way some of you are feeling.

Well, truthfully, it's a matter of semantics. Ah...good ole semantics. Yeah, yeah, I know. But here's where semantics have become my best friend. Don't see it as loneliness, people. See it as independence. Ask yourself, why do you feel like you need to be in a relationship right now? No...really. Ask yourself.
OK, did you?
Well, what answer did you come up with? Is there something you're lacking right now that someone else could give you? Or is the notion of being with someone else just a self-defeating way of avoiding your need for self-introspection? Why must we take care of others, when we cannot take care of ourselves? The more we are forced to seek the fleeting sensations of intimacy, the less likely we are to be emotionally in-touch. People run to far off places to "find themselves" but if you look closely, you're right there. Do you see you? Yeah. There you are.

Another friend said to me the other day that she felt too awkward talking about herself and her problems. It's unfortunate that many of us don't think we're worthy of each other's time. In a city of rushed schedules, constant dinner plans, hearts thrown around (this time, literal) we look for a false sense of comfort in the physical fix--that does nothing but numb the pain, not resolve it.

What about the substance? Personally, this past year has been a tremendous growth period for me: I have worked on my listening skills. Ahhh, remember listening? You thought it went out with the French cuffing your pants (or is that still in?). I've found that there are so many people who care about you and want to listen to how you're feeling. Don't take on this heavy world on your own.

And whatever you do, don't throw away your heart. Because one day, you'll wish it were still in your closet so it could hug you with its linty, flimsy arms.


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