I've known for some time that, despite the unpleasantries of divorce, I would not let my heart become cold and hardened in the way that I think I feared at the outset (allowing for vulnerability would mean allowing for the prospect of future pain, after all). By Valentine's Day of this year, I was pretty sure the soft squishies of my insides were still in tact, though the theory was yet to be tested.
Today's New Activity: Heart Functionality Test
Today I had a conversation with a friend that allowed me to try that theory out. It's a conversation we've had before. In fact it's a conversation we never really stopped having. But I don't think the previous conversations really touched me on the level today's did. Today's conversation forced me to check in with my feelings and see that--whoah!--they were doing their feeling thing. They were doing it for real.
It was so nice to know.
I've always had a certain kind of appreciation for pain. Not in an S&M kind of way. It's just been a recognition that life's highs wouldn't even be measurable as such without life's lows. People feel out-of-sync during depressive episodes because they know what it is to feel elevated. People cry at funerals because the loss of a loved one brings to mind the happiness their presence brought. Duh. These are the big, obvious examples.
But it is also worth remembering, for me, that one has absolutely no chance of experiencing the fullness of friendship's potential joy without opening one's heart to good, close friendship's potential pain. Or maybe I should say that the other way around. Either way the effect is the same. When you care about a person--when you decide that you really care about a person, it's the equivalent of signing a waiver that says you know what you're getting into, and what you are getting into might, on some future date, cause you to hurt.
And "some future date" was today for me. But not in a terrible way. In the best possible way. In the way that told me: Hey! Lookit that! You're feeling! You're alive. And it's not that I've never done that before. It's that despite the instinct I might have had to go into a protective mode with my heart in the wake of my divorce, I have decided--on an emotional level (as opposed to the theoretical way I recognized it last Valentine's Day)--that I'll take life's potential pain over its potential pain-free emptiness any day. Every day.
What a gift.