Whispers of the Heart

by jimowensjr

He greeted the throbbing pain like an old friend, a reminder of things past.  This morning would be no different than the others.  He would wake and say hello to his back, sit on the side of the bed, test the knee before rising, then hobble to the kitchen and plop a pod in the coffee maker.  He would wait there, silent at the alter, until it poured out its offering, then begin to take tentative sips before it cooled. He liked his coffee hot and had paid the price for his impatience so many times.  Some habits never die, he thought.


The man wasn’t old, but he had punished his body over the years and now it was returning the favor.  It didn’t matter.  He didn’t regret the decisions he had made. Life was too short and he had things to do.  Places to go.  When he was a younger man he would bolt from the bed, driven by the ghosts of inadequacy and approval, and go hunting for something to feed his hunger.  And though no longer woke with the same urgency, he still went hunting.  Now he just knew where to look.  It was right there, every morning, just like the pain in his back and knees, deep inside him.


Cooper had let go of a lot of things.  He no longer strained at the bit for the next promotion, the next raise, or to meet the endless cycle of quarterly performance expectations.  He did his job well, yet his past dissatisfaction had become a good teacher.  It had taken him a while to realize it contentment couldn’t be found in the things he once chased, or more accurately, that chased him.  Looking back, he realized he had often felt like a hunted animal.  Wide-eyed. Pounding heart. Heaving chest.


The ghosts still came back to chase him from time to time.  But now, because he listened, he could hear them coming, chase them away with a knowing smile.  There had been a time when he thought he knew contentment.  But he had long since realized he only knew about it. It hadn’t been the kind of deep-down-in-your belly kind of knowing that he now possessed.  Cooper had also known men who often spoke of peace and satisfaction.  Maybe they had it—had found it as much younger men.  Still, he suspected their lives were as full of restlessness and hunger as his had once been.  Or maybe not.  Not knowing was okay.


Popping the Aleve into his mouth, he washed them down with the cold remnants of his first cup of coffee.  He knew what time it was and realized he would need to get ready for work soon.  But not before he sat down to listen.  Protecting this time, letting go of the left side of his brain where the ghosts resided, he had learned was a discipline.  The barking dogs of doing always wanted more.  They wanted better.  They wanted different.  But from the silence of his chair, he would shoosh them.  He would sit and listen to the birds.  He would listen the roar of the passing cars.  But most of all, he would listen to the whispers of his heart.