“The more the heart breaks, the stronger it grows.”
Care comes packaged in virtuous white paper with a silver bow. Yet inside this gift, where one plants empathy and compassion, are hearts with the edges shaved off.
When I was younger, I could not hold the feeling of care. It hurt too much. As a teen, I armored myself with indifference and did not know I was feeding hurt with anger.
In college, I remember my professor of Southern literature telling me that I did not have to kick all men in the shins. Then, I noticed when walking around my fists were always clenched.
That was a long time ago, and in my early fifties I can hold my heart in one hand and protect it with the other. I thought with age this would get easier. I was wrong. I think it gets harder. My tenderness goes deeper, and I can better distinguish my truths from other’s truths; disrespect smacks harder and those partial truths that appear comforting are more for the speaker’s sake. When integrity slides, I see it.
I am not afraid of being hurt, though it is never ever easy. I cry to process emotion, and write poems to understand myself from the inside out.
When I was in my early thirties, a friend discontinued our relationship. It is all fuzzy now and we weren’t that close. What I remember is what my mom said: think of the friends I do have and all the people in my life who love me. She changed my focus from loss to gratitude.
When I receive criticism or am rejected, I always cringe when told it is “not personal.” I understand what is being said in that statement: I am not disliked nor being judged. I am just not needed or simply have somehow unwittingly acted in a way that requires criticism as feedback.
I like feedback. I need it to grow and unveil the blind spots I have. I cannot argue with other’s needs. I put mine first, and I believe others should look out for their own as well.
Rejection is rejection. People can try to soften it. It is what it is. It never feels good. Today I know when I fall down for any reason, the best I can do is get up, brush myself, dry my tears, allow the heart to ache and be wiling to do it all over again. There is a Native American saying (my version) that goes:
the more the heart breaks, the stronger it grows.
Courage comes in facing what makes us want to run or scream. Strength comes when we get up. Intimacy pushes past all boundaries as people merge and blend. Being vulnerable asks that we risk our hearts.
We can only be hurt when we care.
It’s a risk worth taking.
I’d like to reject the idea of rejection, but living a meaningful life won’t allow me. I don’t clench my fists anymore or tighten my jaws and walk around with unexpressed anger like I did in college. When I stop crying that’s when I begin to worry.
I am a full time yoga teacher, trained at City Fitness in Washington, DC, and Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. I have been writing poetry since I was 9 years old. Poetry is my first love and yoga continues to feed my heart. I write and teach because I love it. I tell my students: do it because you can. I believe in creating opportunity and in helping. I think faith is the most important gift of life, because when we lose everything else we still have that in our heart. I believe the natural state of being is happiness, or bliss, or Ananda. Life is a celebration. Poetry and yoga help me celebrate. For more: visit my blog.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta
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