I’ve always run a little hot.
I remember sweating through the armpits of my red satin shirt on picture day my freshman year of high school. I squeezed my arms tight to my sides as the photographer instructed me to tilt my giant, pixie-cut head to the side. I kept my shoulders back to keep my black suspenders attached to my plaid school girl skirt in place. You can’t see the sweat stains in the photo, but I know they’re as there as the giant golden glasses on my face, silver braces on my teeth.
I managed to sweat through another red shirt just last weekend, the heat beneath my choir robe growing hotter and hotter by the second. I don’t sweat in church because I fear God. I sweat in church because I’m one of two sopranos in the choir and it feels like a lot to handle right now. I sweat in church because I can see the doorway and I fear not who but what might come through those doors on any given Sunday. I sweat because hormones don’t stop on Sunday from ten thirty until the last words of the benediction are uttered, the first notes of the pianist’s postlude lilting through the spacious sanctuary.
But I lost my heat a few weeks ago.
In the midst of October, as we maneuvered our first full month after the loss of my father-in-law, I found myself sitting in my office, freezing cold. Sometimes this happens when I’m getting sick. I’ll spike a fever and the rest of my body will shiver and shake. However, I wasn’t sick. I was just cold. Both physically and emotionally frozen.
It’s odd when your heat leaves you, physically or otherwise. I’m not used to layering multiple tops and sweaters, covering up with a blanket, actually wearing socks. I know the tricks to cool down when I’m hot, when I’m overheating, when I’m darn near woozy due to outdoor or inner-soul temperatures. I don’t know how to warm back up it seems.
It was during this loss of my physical heat that I realized my inner heat also seeped out somewhere along the way. I spent years close to the fire, easily able to go from placid and cool to firey rage. If you wanted to argue a point, I was there for it, ready to dig in my heels and prove my rightness above all else.
That’s just gone.
While I’ve physically warmed up again over the past month, too hot to wear my cute new sweaters, I still have no desire to argue, fight, or attend a debate of any kind. If you want to be right, have at it. If you need to be right, I am here for you in that as well. I have no fight left, no burning need to prove someone else wrong just to stoke my personal flames of self-righteousness. I’ve lost the desire to put relationships at risk simply to be right. It just doesn’t seem all that important anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still competitive and I’m gonna win that moon game more often than not. If we’re playing UNO, I’m throwing a Draw 4 at you with a grin on my face. And I have a Clue Title to uphold after all.
But I’ve lost my fire, my fight. Somewhere between seeing the moon that night two months ago and my husband taking my hand and leading me to the couch, my entire world changed. In place of that fire and fight is a heaviness, a brokenness. They say time will heal it, though I do not believe that to be true as I know a thing about those broken places, those heavy things. To hold my husband in his own brokenness, to help my sons navigate their unimaginable loss, to walk this tricky trail myself, I just don’t have it in me to rise to any other occasion than to love people where they are.
Life is too short. I have second-guessed almost everything in the past two months, and I just keep coming back to that truth: Life is too short. Love your people as best you can and tell them as often as possible.
In this cooling off period of my life, I am thankful for those who stand with us. I’m not who I was even in that immediate aftermath of his sudden, tragic death. Maybe it’s because I know all too well what it’s like to be in that dark place and now I see the fallout of that decision. Whatever the case, I feel my charge this cold November is to love my people in and through their sadness and grief, to wrap my love around their broken places and hold them up when it feels like too much weight to stand.
Yes, broken and cold and hurting, I wrap my arms around them and whisper, “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved,” over and over until they are warm again, until they believe it.