Heartache is a Wiggle
A few weeks ago I found myself lying face-down on the asphalt in the middle of the street. My cheek was on the ground and my hands were behind my back. My shoulders were beginning to ache from holding them in that position. I was chanting “I can’t breathe,” along with a few dozen other protestors to raise awareness for the unequal and inhumane treatment of our brothers and sisters of color.
A lump began to form in my throat. It rose without notice and quickly deflated my words until my mouth was moving but no sound was coming out. Tears welled up in my eyes and spilled over onto the hot asphalt. I was flooded with emotion and the realization that, other than the melanin in my skin, there is very little physical difference between myself and many of those who find themselves prone and vulnerable to a world that keeps them down with a heavy, politicized boot on their throats.
What I felt in that moment was heartache--a sensation that we’ve been conditioned to turn away from. Heartache is painful, and our culture is eager to sell us one of a hundred remedies for the pain. Here in America, if something pains you, you can just nip it, tuck it, dye it, numb it, cover it up, or distract from it. God forbid you should feel it!
But what if we’re doing ourselves a great disservice by turning away from heartache? What if our quiet inner voice is trying to send us a message and heartache is the messenger?
Consider the idea that heartache is merely a signal that something or someone matters. If a person is taken from you and you feel heartache, it means they mattered; they were important to you. If you lose a job and it causes heartache, it means something in that scenario matters to you, and it may not be the job. It may be your family, which that job allowed you to provide for, that matters so much.
Being aware of the true source of our heartache is important because it can clue us in to a sense of purpose in life. Glennon Doyle, author of the New York Times Best Seller, Untamed, says in her book, “When we let ourselves be moved, we discover what moves us.”
Heartache can be a clue sent by our bodies to let us know that something is important and that we should pay attention. Heartache, it turns out, is a Wiggle.
I’ve coined the term Wiggle to describe the messages sent by your inner-Yoda to help guide you in life. Your Wiggles are the embodiment of your inner wisdom. Some people refer to this inner wisdom as their Spirit or Soul, or even God. For me, Wiggles are the sensations felt in my body when this inner wisdom is trying to get my attention.
“Shhh,” it says, “this is important.”
When we follow our Wiggles, we find purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. Sometimes Wiggles come in the form of heartache because that’s where our attention is most needed. Anything that pains you is an area where you have the ability to help alleviate pain for others. If you’re looking for a sense of purpose in your life, this is a great place to start.
Often, what prevents us from responding to our heartache in a meaningful way is the sense that the source of our heartache is so big and we are so small. We’re afraid that we’ll be consumed by the ache, disappearing and disintegrating into it like sugar into hot tea. But this is not at all what ends up happening.
Responding to a Heartache Wiggle usually looks more like this: You enter a vast cavern of darkness with a tiny lit candle. Within that cavern are many people with unlit candles. Slowly you begin lighting other people’s candles. It would take you years to light all the candles, but soon you notice that the people whose candles you’ve lit are now lighting other people’s candles. There’s enough light now that you can see their faces. They’re smiling. You receive hugs. A space that was once vast, dark, and cold now feels warm and is full of connection. You feel a sense of purpose and community. Your heartache has now shifted into heart-centered fulfillment.
Two years ago, my Heartache Wiggle was triggered when the plight of children taken from neglectful homes and placed in foster care captivated my heart. There were more than 400,000 children in foster care in the US at that time. I felt so small. But I knew the heartache wouldn’t go away unless I did something about it. So I began volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster children and became involved in all aspects of several of these children’s lives. My heart quickly became filled with purpose, meaning, and community.
Thinking of the impact I’ve been able to have for local foster youth reminds me of the old “starfish” parable, adapted from an essay by Loren Eiseley. In this story, a man is walking along a beach where thousands of starfish have washed up and will surely die. The man sees a child throwing starfish back into the ocean, trying to save them one at a time. Puzzled, the man says to the child, “There are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?” The child gently picks up another starfish and tosses it into the ocean. The child then turns to the man and says, “It makes a difference for that one!”
Lying on the asphalt that Saturday, I recognized the lump in my throat and I acknowledged my Heartache Wiggle. I’m paying attention. I’m standing on a beach with thousands of starfish and I have a choice. I’m asking myself, “What can I do?”
This morning I received a phone call from a woman from my synagogue. She asked if I’d be interested in taking over the Social Action Chairperson position for our congregation. I wiggled. Okay, I thought, this I can do.
If you’re interested in having a positive impact on our racially divided world, I recommend becoming educated on the depth and breadth of the issues at hand. Click here for a Google Docs document outlining powerful articles, books, podcasts, videos, TV series, movies, and social media links.
If you’re interested in volunteering with local foster youth in your area and learning more about the CASA organization (Court Appointed Special Advocates), click here for more information.
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