Our hearts break every day.
Some of us feel this more often, more deeply than others. When it’s about sadness, expressing it is a delicate thing.
Learning how to be open to our heart stuff is an art form in itself. And it is where art forms.
“We’ll just play this one out until it explodes
into a thousand tiny pieces
What’s your story universe
You are melody and numbers
You are shapes, and you are rhythms
They are signs that we can learn
to place over the heavens
to predict how long they’ll burn.”
~ Sean Hayes
While with some friends the other day, we talked about how watching the video for Johnny Cash’s haunting cover of ‘Hurt’ makes us so sad.
We were getting so excited in our conversation that we felt we needed to watch it—but we didn’t want to to watch the video because it makes us want to cry.
And then we decided to watch the video for just this reason.
It is because it breaks our hearts so thoroughly that it is such a brilliant work of art: in just four minutes, we connect with his life, his soul. We are with him as his heart is simultaneously swelling and breaking, living and dying.
The man in black walked with his heart on the line up until the end. He loved hard and lived hard. He messed up. He cried, he fought, he bled. He was not afraid to show us when he was afraid.
Johnny devoted much of his life to getting to the thick dark sludge of things: no sugarcoating. no technicolor dreaming.
This was how he processed, healed, grew. He taught us so much in his capacity to feel deeply and honour it.
Mostly we aren’t really taught how crucial it is to see the beauty in the dark stuff. Mostly life teaches this to us in it’s own way, through trial and error, through breaking and opening and healing and then doing it all over again.
Mostly, we are told to shove away the sad and dark stuff, to think positive, to walk through each day with a plastered-on smile.
I think that the very act of plastering on the smile can end up making us feel sadder than we would if we just allowed ourselves to learn to feel everything.
We prize ourselves on our ability to be thick-skinned, but perhaps not enough on the quiet strength that springs out of vulnerability.
And this is why creative expression comes, to peacefully process these feelings that may otherwise be expressed in some kind of destructive fashion. Pouring these things out through whatever creative medium is about growing and getting to the other side, because we can’t hang out in heartbreak for too long.
We can’t just dangle on heartbreak’s hook forever, swaying back and forth between sort-of- happy and sort-of-sad and never going forward.
That is not movement. That is not connection. That is not growth.
if we don’t let ourselves feel terribly sad sometimes, our hearts will never break open, falling-vase style.
“we make our own gravity to give weight to things. then things fall and they break and gravity sings.”
Gravity’s song is the point at which we let our hearts break fully. It’s what brings us (to) art, created from something beyond our regular selves: beyond ego, beyond control, beyond definition.
It is not happy or sad, just a pure expression of soul.
In the end, gravity always wins. At one time or another, every one of us will shatter, because it is only once we break open to the world that we have the space to pick up the pieces and reform into something new.
It must be in the process of reforming that we become stronger, more resilient, gaining greater capacity to help others understand that it’s okay for them to break open. Even (especially) in our own darkest hour.
Mostly I’ve been speaking of the dark parts here, but I believe that for this processing to happen we also must really let our hearts open to burst and break with joy:
A child’s healthy cry, a pet’s happy mewling.
Quietly gazing at a favourite painting.
The satisfaction that comes with slipping that last puzzle piece neatly into its place, filling in the blank spot in our picture.
The first bite of a freshly baked pie.
That sharp-breath-in goosepimply moment of a favourite lovers’ touch.
The weight and warmth of your blanket when you wake up on a lazy Sunday and realize that you don’t have to do anything but just listen to the sound of cold rain on the windowpane.
So: let us have the courage to feel our hearts breaking open, be it out of love or fear, joy or sorrow.
Let us learn how to believe that a goodbye isn’t about breaking up, but about breaking open. Because when our hearts break open, it is really about forming new connections with ourselves, with our art, with each other.
Our hearts break to let us know love.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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