The simple math of a whole heart

Meditation for my April 16, 2020, Holy Yoga class.

One word I have used to describe myself over the past few years is fragmented.

I have been a wife and mom, a daughter and friend, a communications manager, a Holy Yoga instructor, a newly published book author …

Within each of those identities are various responsibilities and tasks, each vying for time and attention.

I thought leaving my full-time job last summer would alleviate that feeling of fragmentation, but—as you might imagine—I quickly began filling my newly released time with new tasks and meetings, diving deeper into my remaining identities.

Then came COVID-19.

Around 2:15 p.m. Friday, March 13, my son’s school alerted us that Washington’s schools were closing.

Wait … did you hear that?

That was the screeching sound of life-as-we-once-knew-it coming to a halt.

In a sense, the announcement came as a relief, because it took some tough decisions out of our hands. Decisions such as, Is it responsible to keep sending our student to school as a pandemic creeps ever closer?

But in another sense … yikes! What about my communications consulting work? The yoga classes I teach? The new writing I had planned to do? My meetings, my social life … ? And what if we or our extended family were to get sick?

With school canceled and my husband still working full-time at the office, most of my plans instantly went on hold … and some of them went online. Life is different now. My son and I are home-based, fully inhabiting this house for the first time, working together all day to learn and live. I’m learning a lot about his strengths and areas that need more attention. I’m realizing the same about myself.

Now that we’re several weeks into this shelter-in-place lifestyle, I can see ways this new reality is changing my life. Here are just a few:

Old priority: Keeping my resume viable
New priority: Keeping my family healthy

Old priority: Keeping my social media accounts at least somewhat active
New priority: Keeping my son active, intellectually and physically

Old priority: Staying “out there” — networking
New priority: Regrouping at home

Old priority: Checking tasks off my to-do list
New priority: Asking bigger questions, such as, “What am I called to do?” and “If I vanished now, what important work would be left undone?”

As I reflected on these and other shifts, I ran across a devotional in Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, which referenced Colossians 3:23:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (NIV)

Here are the words that leaped out at me: “all your heart.”

It seems this pandemic, this shelter-in-place period, is causing—forcing—me to use all my heart. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say it’s teaching me to use all my heart.

How can it be otherwise? Many of my usual distractions are all but vanished, and the areas where my work is needed are crystal clear. My family needs me to be fully present—whole-heartedly present—to care for and teach our son, to keep the household running, to do new things like making masks, to prepare for just-in-case scenarios, to provide wraparound care right here, right now.

Apparently it takes a pandemic for me to realize that I have only one heart, and that the fragmentation I’ve been feeling for years has been the result of my attempt to devote my very limited human heart to too many identities, too many activities and causes all at the same time.

Now that I’m learning to focus on fewer identities—surprise—I’m slowly losing that sense of fragmentation.

It’s simple math, really. How can one heart be divided in so many ways and still bring its full power to bear?

Photo by Dallas Reedy on Unsplash

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