Heart in the Mail

The low-fire clay is called "Storyteller."

Someone sent me a heart in the mail. A clay heart. Heavy for its size (we have that in common), beautifully glazed. It looks like a pastry. When I unwrapped it, it made me smile immediately. Then I did what I do with all such heart-touching objects–I rubbed it with my fingers and palm. It was very satisfying.

I can’t identify the artist because she is a coaching client of mine, and I promise them anonymity. She’s an artist who works in several media, but this heart made me think she was working in the right area when she made this out of a clay called “Storyteller.”

Now, I have to admit I don’t like hearts as representative icons. They have been

The back of heart with the saving pierce. Or maybe it's the front.

over-sentimentalized, overused, made twee and kitschy by relentless use as a symbol of wedding-cake-topper sticky-sweet love. Ugh. But this one wasn’t that. This one was a tough little heart in pastel colors. It looked sweet but was hard.

I rolled it over. On the back was an inscribed spiral and a hole. The artist had sent a note that said, “I had to put a hole in the heart or it would explode in the kiln. Remember to breathe when in the creative fire.” Perfect. That is what every heart must endure–to be pierced and bruised, marked and damaged and healed to work effectively.  Now that’s a heart that even I can love.

Heart on a spike in my studio. Just as a reminder that every artist heart is always exposed.

It came into the studio with me. The hole in the heart had been made by a pointy object of some sort, so I grabbed a skewer (I use them to write and hold papers together) and slipped it into the fire-hole of the heart. It balanced. Just like creative people–we put our hearts on spikes and show them to people, willing to be accepted or rejected, loved or hated. Being creative means risking it all.

What a perfect lesson. What a perfect gift. I think I might make room for a heart in my life. At least one that won’t explode in a kiln.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She’s beginning to notice hearts around her, now.

Expanding Hearts

My friend Ruth and I were having lunch last week. Our kids are grown, and we were talking about how different families look in today’s life. There are kids, step-kids, step-grandchildren, half-siblings, ex-husbands, ex-in-laws, and other complicated relationships.

As our hearts expand, old hurts stay the same.

As our hearts expand, old hurts stay the same.

I mentioned that my parents-in-law had decided that all children in the family were their grandchildren–whether ex-, half- or foster. It seemed a reasonable solution, and while there are always tricky relationships, the inclusive ones seem easiest.

Ruth said the wisest sentence I’ve heard in a long time:

“It’s not about how many people we can leave out to make a relationship, it’s about creating family-extensions. I won’t date a man who doesn’t have family ties, my heart is expandable.”

Ruth not only has a big heart, it is expandable. And it is. I was her client a year ago when I was looking for a house I could afford, and now we’re friends. We talk about our kids, grandkids, life and love as if we had known each other forever.

Because we are not looking for tests to see whom we can trust, we are starting from a belief in trust. Rather than “Why should I trust this person?”, it’s “Why shouldn’t I trust this person?” And so we have moved from polite conversation to the things that matter. And Ruth’s heart is expandable, indeed.

Expanding hearts work well in every stage in life. Make room for someone else’s past in your combined present. There’s always more room in your heart.

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world. In her spare time, she teaches people who can’t draw how to keep an art journal.