“Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
Edgar Allan Poe.
I can barely finish typing out his name without my nostrils flaring up with scented memory of crisp decaying library book pages, a thin film of dust, and burnt matchsticks stacked as charred wooden skeletons next to remnants of wax candles that once stood tall and glowing above them.
Edgar Allan Poe. Pitch black nights. Cold, damp, damning tales.
The raven. Terror. Black eyes. Darkness. Fear.
Fea.. hmm. Yes, that. Fear.
Fear. That four letter word. One that unfolds like an origami dragon with its multiple folds, wrinkles, creases, surfaces and tucked away corners. Fear. Something that cyclically alternates between wiggling, whispering, and roaring into the reality of the heart time and time again.
Over and over. Fear. Something that affects the heart and soul and mind if gone unchecked.
Matters of the heart.
On my fourth day of recovery in the hospital, after what seemed like 'only' a sore previous 2-3 days that were mostly pain free, the inside of my left chest near the area of my heart screamed with pain akin to the sensation of a glass lightbulb broken and twisted around. A rusty knife laceration would have been a welcome substitution. This was a jarring, eye-rolling, torturous, core-to-extremity writhing type of overload. Fear compounded, and cross-stitched itself into the tender membranes and tissue of my organs. To breathe, was to hurt. Fear advertised heavily on the billboards lining the highway of 'tomorrow' my mind was racing on. Fear became both the noise of oncoming traffic and glare of high-beams through the windshield of my perceived reality. A surgery, a heart issue, a challenge that I thought I had faced (note: "faced", as in past tense, as in good-job, kid) and supposedly was given a thumbs-up of approval in the notion that all was and will be well down the road.. well, perhaps (enter stage left, perched on the doorway: fear whispering) perhaps perhaps all was not well. And all would not be well. And there could be so much more worse that I never expected or imagined or allowed myself to consider.
The raven, fear, had the spotlight.
My ribcage, similar to a birdcage, or protective crate, was getting pecked at, poked, and prodded by fear. The raven's beak, sharp and probing, wanting to make confetti out of the recovering muscle of my heart.
In a matter of hours I had mentally pushed myself into an extreme mental and emotional overload, with my physical state not even being fully addressed (medically) yet.
Why do we do that?
My friend, why do we sit in one room, and look at the door to get to the next chapter/place/task, and dwell under the doorway where there is a loud and poking raven of fear? Why do we dwell in the doorway, when the rooms and hallways are our destinations and paths to healthier, happier, fitter, and more experienced in the process of it all?
Experienced, wiser, in that we take that step out.
Experienced, wiser, in that we don't wonder if the black bird is correct.
Experienced, wiser, in that we move. Take action.
Experienced, wiser, in that we acknowledge the distraction or concern, and press on nevertheless.
Experienced, wiser, in that the engagement with the task we face is kinetic.
By late morning that day in the hospital, or should I rephrase that to "by what felt like ten years with no one around in my lonely pained existence", the surgeon stopped by and saw the pain in my face. He explained, reassuringly, that the heart does not enjoy being touched, let alone cut open, let alone fashioned with an artificial foreign valve. Do the mental math: Squishy heart. Sharp knife. Bad deal there. We have ribs for a reason. We have our heart where it is, for a reason. The pain, would pass. The heart needed to heal from the pain, and memory of pain, and move on with the new valve and beat new life into the systems and organs looking forward to its new and improved self. Move on, through the door.
Funny.. the raven didn't make as much noise once the surgeon kept explaining and sharing information and mapping out a path for recovery down the road. The raven might've flapped its wings, made a noise or two to remind me, but other than that, its dark and ominous presence on my doorway faded in the intensity and actual danger it projected.
One step up from bed.
One step forward with my walker.
One step closer to the door.
One step into the hallway.
One step.. one step.. one step.. progress.
Hope filters the waters in the foundation of our heart and soul.
Hope fuels the faith in getting to the goal.
But hope, and faith, need action.
Action through that doorway.
Action past that door.
"Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
I don't know your pain.
I don't know your ravens.
I don't know your doors.
I don't know how many times you hear "nevermore" in your life.
I don't know how many times your heart is haunted by that fear.
Nevermore, neverm.. no, more.. No more.
Go ahead and push through it all the more.
Wherever you are today, whatever challenge you face, be it heart or heartfelt, know that there are others here with you. Know that we care, and that we have walked in the dark corridors and made it past the creaking hinges of doors that seemed to be inoperable. Know that you matter. Your story matters, and we need you to live your story. We all have our ravens. We all have our doorways.
We need you to go through the door.
We need you to take heart, and keep going. Today.