The heart. A simple heart symbol. Now used in so many different contexts. Everything from jewelry commercials, to Valentine’s Day commercials to the “heart hands” image more popular with the younger generation.
And yet, the heart and its image are also the center, the very core of our physical and spiritual existence. In a metaphorical sense, it represents the place where our emotions and feelings are kept and nurtured. It is affection. It is compassion. It is passion. It is feeling. It is … love. And yet, it is so much more complex.
Some persons steeped in the study of spirituality believe the heart also carries impulses of intellect, of energy, of reason as well as impressions of our soul. We equate the heart with courage, resiliency and strength. But, when we are gripped with an unspeakable tragedy, we express that anguish, that overwhelming pain as “breaking our heart.”
Our heart is us. As long as our heart beats, we have life. We have hope.
Recently, a friend posted the above picture as her February Facebook cover photo. I believe it was a representation of her past disdain for that quintessential “Hallmark Holiday,” Valentine’s Day.
And yet, for those of us who have experienced first-hand, the on-going battle with eating disorders, this image represents nothing less than the unconditional love we have for our beloved children who suffer and die from this disease, and the harsh reminder of the grim reality of what this disease can do to our loved ones. The image is dark. It is raw.
The image of “The Purger,” dressed in funereal black, her dark hair pulled up on her head. A darkness surrounding her eyes. There is almost a “casualness” surrounding her image. One hand set against a wall, the other hand on her hip as if she were saying, “Let’s just get this over with.” There is certainly no joy represented in this image. One can also sense sorrow even anguish manifest in the Purger. Her specter like appearance, hovering between darkness and light, life and death.
And then, the hearts. Hearts as the manifestation of life. The hearts flowing out of her mouth. Almost as if she were purging away love. Almost as if she were purging away life itself. The Purger, lonely and alone. The Purger, left to her own fate. The blackness representing the inevitable darkness of despair and the abyss which awaits her.
Or, does it?
What if instead of purging away her life, what if she was beginning to reabsorb life? Can we definitively say that she is purging away those hearts, that love, and life itself? If we look at the image through a different lens, could she in fact be breathing in those hearts?
Let’s look at the pattern of the hearts and reexamine what we see.
The larger sized hearts at the bottom. A more discernible pattern developing in the shape, size and interaction of the hearts as they get closer to her mouth. The red color of the hearts more vivid toward the bottom of the image and yet, as they approach her mouth they shrink in size and start to lose the vivid redness … as if they are preparing to be absorbed into her. Becoming one with her again. Going home.
How do we know that in that moment of time just before this image, she wasn’t on her knees and now she is rising with new strength she is finding within her? Is her extended hand pressed up against a wall? Or is it in a position of telling the world to wait … that she has this, that she is regaining her life. She is regaining love.
The two circles above her. Are those the tearful eyes of the eating disorder monster fading into oblivion as it realizes that it has failed to claim another victim?
Look at the sandstone pattern in the image. It is surrounding the Purger. It is in the background. It is behind her, and yes it appears to be encircling her. But … it is not immediately in front of her. Directly in front of her, in front of her face and body, there is light. There is illumination. Almost as if the hearts, as they are being drawn back into her are casting a light of illumination. A light of love. A light of life.
Look again. At first glance, what appears to be an image of despair, of purging away life is anything but. This is not an image of despair! This is an image of reclaiming life. Of reclaiming love. In all of its harshness. In all of its beauty.
The subject lady, The Purger? No.
She is The Warrior. She has faced the greatest obstacle a person can encounter. She is regaining her heart. She is regaining her soul. She is regaining her Life. She is the Warrior.
She is resolute. She knows a strength that most people can never understand nor approach. She is defined by her resilience. She is the very best of us.
She is the Warrior.