when the heart suddenly stops

Would your fear be any less and would you see that you had been chosen to help the sun rise? ― Nick Bantock, Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds

It occurs to me that every time I feel as if I’ve lost my way, I return to children’s books. I like to finger the thick, glossy paper stock, pour over the illustrations, and tumble, head-first, into a world, a life, that is simple and complete. As someone who fancies herself a writer, I remind myself that children’s books are perhaps the most difficult genre one could write for its success is predicated on the quickening of a child’s heart. As the three acts swiftly unfold, the child becomes petulant, impatient, grabbing at pages two, three at a time, because they want to know what’s next.

How does the story end?

Possibly I return to children’s books again and again to remind myself that there’s still magic in the world. That in every end there is a beginning. Our lives are something of a metronome, a mimicked heartbeat, a series of stops and starts, and in between the acts, between the breaths, there blooms something magical and new. As the years press on, our once wide eyes press shut and it’s easy to ignore the magic. We accept blindness as a current state, we slouch our way through our days, and the world morphs into a bleached-white version of what it once was.

Hold on, hold on tightly
Hold on, hold on tightly
Rise up, rise up
With wings like eagles
You run, you run
You run and not grow weary
-U2’s “Drowning Man”

Every day I wake and tell myself that there is color. That the world is worth seeing. That life is worth fighting for, even when your heart suddenly stops and shatters from the inside. Cutting everything in its wake. Because don’t we deserve to leap, lurch, race, fly? Don’t we deserve to preserve something in those books we once read? Replace the heartbreak with that quickening we use to love?

What’s next? What’s next? For the past three months this question is a spectre at every shared meal, email, text message. Recently, I spent two hours at Delicatessen (home of my beloved cheeseburger spring rolls, truffle fries and kale salad) pontificating on this very question with an old friend, but finding no real answers. After a heartbreaking, tumultuous exit from a job I once believed I loved, I’m too busy surveying the wreckage and assessing the damage to figure out what’s next.

Instead, I plan to spend this month knee-deep in introspection. I’m off to Europe next week and I’m taking my books, camera and heart, and I hope to return stronger. I hope to return seeing the magic once again.

I hope to return to a fast-beating heart.


16 thoughts on “when the heart suddenly stops

      1. Ahh well. I just booked a trip to NYC and was hoping to see if you’d be free for a meal while I’m there! Maybe another time. I’m sure Europe will be fabulous and can’t wait to hear about it/see your gorgeous photos!


  1. Cheeseburger spring rolls? Now that sounds interesting! New York seems to have all of the good food…

    I love children’s books too. I treasured the illustrated Laura Ingalls Wilder ones (abbreviated for little eyes), mainly because they smelled like the woods — pine and oak and other tree smells. They’re still on my parents’ bookshelf!


      1. My mom and I would read a chapter every night before I went to bed. It took a few years, but I loved them all! (Then we started on Laura’s daughter’s books, then her mother’s, then her grandmother’s, then her great-grandmother’s… We have quite the collection!)

        They aren’t odd at all; I love funky twists on food!


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