Darling Letters: How to Keep Your Heart Tender
We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.
My bleary eyes check the clock, confirming it’s already tomorrow. 1:17 a.m. I grab my journal and scribble “I’m too raw and exposed. Just teetering on an edge.”
I breathe in and out the prayerful pleas on my heart to steady myself back into my body. Now, it’s 6:12 a.m. I’m awake again as my 4-year-old daughter clumsily tries to sneak under my covers. Her big, sleepy eyes beg for a snuggle, and she’s wrapped up in my arms just like that. Down the hall my eldest runs his fingers across the keys of our hand-me-down piano, and music fills the house and my heart too, which is strung out from yesterday’s heartache. Right now, however, it’s so full from the sweet glory of a new day that tears hit my cheeks.
Right now, however, [my heart is] so full from the sweet glory of a new day that tears hit my cheeks.
The kids are antsy for breakfast, but I quickly journal, “My mind reels and wanders. My heart swells and breaks. I need the both/and. I don’t want to dull myself from feeling tender to all that remains good.”
The tender parts of us are a glimmer of our humanity. We remain tender by holding the tension of our “ands”—joy and grief, hard and sacred. I want to be soft enough to behold and brim the beauty of it all while remaining unflinchingly curious and empathetic to wade into the deep of what is broken and painful. Hard-fought, deep joy doesn’t deny or look away from sorrow. Even in heartache, we can hold space for hope to return.
Even in heartache, we can hold space for hope to return.
Author and activist Parker Palmer taught me the etymology of the word humus, which is the decayed vegetable matter that nurtures the roots of plants. It comes from the same root word for humility. Our most humble moments—face down in the dirt, tender and raw—may create the richest soil for deep rooting and meaning. If we harden ourselves, we’ll miss it. Stay tender for truth, healing, beauty and justice to grow wild here.
With a tender heart,
Jessica Mayfield, the Darling family
What negative connotation does “a tender heart” carry in society? How do you perceive “tenderness” and “vulnerability”? How can keeping your heart soft and tender be used to your advantage?
Image via Taylor Roades, Art via Ash (Opperman) Wilson