Dear Ones —

Many Christmases ago, my friend the wonderful poet, playwright and children's author Irene O'Garden (www.ireneogarden.com) sent me this simple little inscribed heart, and I have kept it near me ever since.

(I don't even know if she knows how much it has meant to me…THANK YOU, IRENE!)

Life can do a number on us. Show me the place in the world where we can permanently hide from suffering, from frustration and loss, from injustice, from shame, from our own failings? It doesn't exist. Who has ever lived a life free from all pain and trial? Nobody.

As a monk I met in India once said, "Dig a deep hole in the furthermost corner of the world, and suffering will still somehow manage to track you down." There's simply nowhere to hide from trouble.

Sometimes it seems like all we want from the world is an easy path ("When will things get EASIER?" we wail, and have wailed for millennia)…but ease is precisely NOT the contract that humans have ever been promised.

So we get hurt, and then we get angry, and then we close down, protecting ourselves with cynicism, rage and indifference.

Yet while some of us get hardened by life, others are somehow tenderized by it — softened, gentled, humbled. The people whom I love and admire most are those who walk through the fire and somehow manage to keep their humor, their grace, their wonder, and yes, their innocence. Not through naiveté, mind you, but through muscular, decisive acts of love.

That, to me, is a hero's path.

But — as Irene reminded me on this little paper heart so many years ago — it is not the world's job to keep your heart open for you. That part is your job.

Look to the world for evidence that you should remain innocent, and the world will likely punch you right in the face.

Look to your heart for evidence, though, and that's a very different story, indeed.

All love,

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall