Keeping a Soft Heart in a Jagged Cliff World

Recently, while our minivan hugged the curves of the winding Pacific Coast Highway, I wondered to myself what would greet us beyond the curve of road that jetted out in front of the cliff. The curve bent sharply inward and hid what lay beyond it. To my right, out the passenger window are the jagged cliffs of Big Sur.

The thunderous dark waves of the Pacific Ocean crash dramatically onto the unmovable, ancient rocks below. The waves burst like water balloons over the boulders, letting droplets of sunlight in as the salty water cascades back down into the sea looking the color of mouthwash.

The grandness of it all; the symphony of nature working and raging in the sea, waves lining up like a well timed sonnet, the kids napping in the back seats of our rented minivan; their breathing deep and unconscious, like silent accordions being played by an invisible accordionist. My husband drives, I’m sure pretending the minivan is a motorcycle on the smooth, windy road, and I sit comfortably in the front seat, bewildered and feeling like the gorge that connects these two worlds lies in the center of my chest.

The raging waters below I can see clearly, what is around the curve of the cliff, I do not know. These beating hearts that sit in the minivan with me and the empty seats held open for those who can not be with me now, I want to hold them safely forever. I want to protect them from the harshness of life; the jagged cliffs and hostile waves and currents that lurk beneath the surface. I want to protect myself, too.

Protected from the elements by the cocoon of the minivan, it would be lovely if this is how we could navigate life. Safe and comfortable, only witnessing what lays beyond the window and not having to feel the harshness of the rocks. Protected from the unknown surprises that lay beyond the curves.

And yet, beyond one of the curves, was a long strip of flat road. Fields of wheat flickered in the sun and danced with the ocean breeze with smooth, in sync movement. The rocky beach gave way to smooth sand beaches wide enough to fit hundreds of elephant seals. Their thousand pound bodies grunt and rumble as they flop on one another vying for the perfect place to nap the afternoon away. Without a sliver of light between them, they remind me of my daughters and how they used to pile into bed at night waiting for a bedtime story. Their limbs intertwined and heads nestled into one another; safe and unbothered by the world. This is how my son lays with me now when it’s just the two of us with piles of dinosaur books waiting to be read.

Children grow and the curves and jagged edges of life sharpen. The unknown lingers beyond the cliffs, and yet we still move forward. And while we have the illusion of being tucked away with those we hold near, we navigate the road we take alone. We decide when to speed up, when to slow down, when to stop and rest and when to move again.

These past few months have unveiled a lot of unknowns. Some were balloons weighted with water just waiting to be popped; a welcomed release. Others were like lego pieces on the floor in the pitch dark of night with the bottoms of my unprepared sensitive feet finding them first. Yet all of them, without a single exception, have somehow given me a tighter hold on the divine rope that connects me to me. The invisible with the visible. The mystery to the known.

So, as I write to you now, it has been a while because my hands were holding on tightly to the connection I hold with my private world. The unknowns swirled in faster than I could manage with just one hand; the hand I share with the outer world and the one that keeps me tethered to myself. I’ve needed both.

I thought about sending out old blogs, but something felt insincere about that. Almost like this timeout and being honest about it was the integrity my heart needed to grow and expand from. So I listened and did what was asked. And now, to not be a total cliche, I feel stronger and capable of sharing again. Not pretending surely helped.

The jagged cliffs, unknown curves and straight fields of gold are what’s in store for all of us. Yet it seems to me that the road that is paved below, the road in which we travel, wants to hold us. Staying connected to this knowing has kept me open and soft to change, a little less afraid of what’s to come, and more hopeful than I imagined.

No matter how low the valleys or windy the curves or jagged the cliffs, the road will be there. Somehow, there’s solace on the road that is held up with our breath and beating hearts, until the road curves and becomes the support for joy we’ve not yet tasted before; untainted and pure. No matter where it leads, the road will be there – waiting when we need to pause and ready when we want to gain momentum. And on some days this is all I need to know.

It’s good to be with you again. Thank you for sharing the road with me.



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