The scientific evidence is in. There are enormous benefits to having a happy heart. Yes, the familiar words “Let not your heart be troubled” are still true, because a troubled heart can literally kill you. I lost my husband, Babatunde Folayemi, former Santa Barbara city councilmember, over a year ago. Baba died of what medicine calls a Sudden Cardiac Death. However, as I grieve and process his death, I sadly realize it was anything but sudden.
Baba’s heart was troubled very early. At age six Baba defied school authority when he grabbed a window pole from his first-grade teacher’s hand. His teacher was about to use the pole to beat a little girl when Baba, still a child himself, intervened. Baba’s young heart was troubled by cruelty, injustice, and lovelessness, and when the powerless and helpless hurt, Baba took it seriously and personally.
Many in Santa Barbara at every level lament Baba’s sudden passing and like me are still missing his deep and profound voice of wisdom. We question how to fight the good fights with a warrior’s heart like his and yet remain alive long enough to win the battles. How do we experience the brokenness, sorrow, and troubles of this life without “troubl’n the waters” of our own fragile hearts and souls? I believe this is difficult but not impossible, and it is a learned process.
The key is to open our deeper hearts to see things as they are and as they are “not-yet-already.” We need the intelligence and wisdom to see clearly that the glass is both half full and half empty and to see the totally empty glasses held by those who have no water at all, yet to discern times when all our cups are overflowing. We need to resolve the issues of our times with spiritual and physical vision and with hearts that love and heal more deeply.
Numerous studies demonstrate that love is the main factor in determining mental, emotional, and even social and physical health. Zora Neale Hurston in her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, said, “There is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.” I believe we need to touch each other’s “formless feelings” more every day and to promote love and intimacy as pathways to healing our troubled hearts and our troubled times.
What a blessing to have been married to your best friend for 43 wonderful years. I am embarking on a new chapter in my life. I got engaged last month to a man that I love to no end and has become my best friend. My heart has never felt so much joy. What advice can you give to keep our love for each other growing stronger each day, as you and Baba did? Thank you for starting this column; the heart is the center of it all. I look forward to your next article.
Congratulations on your recent engagement! This is a vital question. When we first fall in love we are all touched by feelings of gratefulness, passion, tenderness, self-worth, and deep intimacy and affection. The key to keeping that love is staying in love, and staying in love is choosing to love one encounter at a time. Falling, keeping, and staying in love are all the same — small and grand choices to deeply love every day — to open your heart to another’s needs with every encounter. We communicate and listen more than we speak. We watch to fulfill his or her heart’s desires, guarding them as our own. We are careful everyday not to wound with words or deeds, and when we do, we seek to make it right. We care and become vulnerable to another human being. We grow stronger in love together. It is one of the most profound and yet difficult endeavors we can undertake, and yet the rewards are amazingly sweet! May you both be blessed by God to become one blended heart full of love.
Akivah Northern is a certified Family Wellness Trainer and holds a Master in Divinity from Yale. Her biweekly column explores the deeper heart in all its dimensions. She welcomes heartfelt questions from readers of all ages at firstname.lastname@example.org.