Listen to Your Heart and Your Mother

There is this song I heard this summer at a Florence and the Machine concert. Sitting underneath the dark wooden balcony on puffed-up plush maroon velvet, I heard Florence, a magical fairy dancer that pranced around the stage like a majestic unicorn brought to life, sing these words for the first time and it changed me.

"Just keep following the heartlines on your hands...."

Broken, missing my husband and the normal life we had when we fell in love, I started weeping uncontrollably in the middle of the concert.

"Keep it up, I know you can."

Emily, my dear friend and concert mate, simply looked over and squeezed my hand. I was lost, terribly confused and had no idea where to go or what to do or if there was anything that I could do. I was miserable and worst of all, felt stuck, like there was nothing to do but wait. I drove home from her house that night and listened to that song on repeat. Something about following the "heartlines" resonated with my hands, and my mothers hands and our skinny hands we had together.

My mother had these amazing hands. Her fingers were beautifully slender and I grew up watching them dance around the piano keys so gracefully, like finger-shaped ballet dancers. She was always making cookies and when she would scoop balls of dough in her hands, she would have to go back later and pick dried cookie dough out of her wedding ring. I am lucky enough to wear the same ring and even inherited her skinny fingers, which she inherited from Grams. Three generations of middle-named Jane bakers with skinny fingers. My hands remind me of both of them, stirring the cookie dough, dancing them around piano keys, measuring them against mine, palm to palm, as mine grew and grew into their own, taut skin around tiny bones.

Remembering my mother has always been a painful experience. I always start laughing or smiling but it ends in pain as the absence is still so profound and significant. It makes me feel hollow. But avoiding remembering might have been worse that I ever imagined. The feeling of being lost, not knowing what to do or where to go, feels more like being disconnected. My mother was a lover of wild things, stray animals and people, immigrants and the homeless. She took off at an early age to live in Haiti to build churches and schools. And all of these things probably scared her, but they never stopped her. She listened to some voice inside of her that made fear insignificant, irrelevant. And forgetting her because it's painful has made me feel really lost and unsure of where I'm supposed to be, as if I've unplugged the very part of me that translates the
but I'm scared into do it anyway.

The directions to my new home are simple: I-80 West to Tahoe City, California, where I will settle my stuff in and hug my husband for the first time in three weeks and be in the mountains and live. Past that, I know nothing. There is a giant void after that that hangs in the air and, sometimes, makes me so scared that I wonder if I'm crazy.

But when I force myself to acknowledge this doubt as fear, that's all it is, fear, and I quiet that, I start to hear something else that fear has always blocked out: pure, simple possibility. Fear has only kept me into routines that feel comfortable and familiar and less scary but have also kept me in patterns with less possibility and living a just okay life. Remembering what got my mom across the ocean to a small village in Haiti is important: not the scary doubt that she may get murdered by the militia, but the possibility that she could help hungry kids and teach them about love and kindness and English. I need to plug myself into that moment; not into being "fearless," but having fear, acknowledging it's outline and refusing to let it win. That is the only direction I need to go in. That and west.

Forgetting where you're from is the only way to get lost, but not knowing where you're going on purpose, and skimming out the fear and doubt and plans, is called adventure. Maybe trusting your guts, your heartlines, isn't a bad idea. Maybe that's the only way to get where you really need to be.