The overwhelming obliteration of this particular loss, after having also lost my father, spiritual guru and nearly my marriage, regressed me to the absolute beginning, where I was born with a broken heart. Literally.
The raggedness of this pain has given me something quite clarifying. Sitting with the anguish, the regret, the shame. Being able to fully feel into this loss and ask questions of myself I would normally run from. I did not used to know how to do that. Or if I did, I failed to practice until now.
Losing him has somehow given me the opportunity to love myself, more fully. I am grateful for that. I haven’t always felt adequate, or worthy to receive such love. I’ve been so busy trying to defend my right to even be a living person, that I haven’t taken the time to ask the important questions of myself.
I arrived on the scene three months early; my heart and lungs weren’t given adequate time to form properly, so were unable to function independent of my mother’s womb. When I was birthed, I fought the whole way. I came out backwards, a three-pound miniature warrior.
My entire body fit in the palm of my mother’s hand.
Just like my four siblings that my parents birthed early and then buried, I would spend weeks in the newborn intensive care unit. The surgeon must have wondered what my chances of survival were, as he opened my left side body and worked to find the deficient chamber of my teeny, tiny heart.
Thirty-seven years later, my scar continues to remind me: there are no free days.
As I grew, so too, did my heart. It started beating on its own. I never doubted my own will to live, and my endless, unapologetic curiosity about what this world has to offer. I believe hearing this story through my youth, knowing that I was the one of five children born to my parents that survived in those circumstances, engraved an invitation on my soul. I believe it instilled within me gratitude, wonderment, love and awe. I carry those things with me. I carry them in my heart.
My physical heart and my metaphorical heart are not so different really.
I’ve arrived where I am, a bit premature in my growth and development. I am so eager, so very interested in being involved with people and explore the world, that I arrive just a bit early for my heart to work well, independently.
In this way, I believe I have always looked toward another person—a mother, a father, a teacher, a sibling, a guru, a lover—to make the repairs I thought I needed. I simply did not pay attention, I simply did not know.
I placed that burden on those who dared to love me, as though my life depended on them. My loved ones, were the ones I hoped would fix what was broken. That they would somehow have the ability to patch my wounded heart, to heal what I would not.
It is astonishing that I have been so loved and given so much, while unwittingly asking more than any person should ever be asked to give. I am humbled.
Now that I have lost all of them; siblings, teachers, father, husband, lover…the surgery has been performed. At one time or another in my life, I have been fully removed from every support I depended on so strongly. I am still, or perhaps only now beginning to, breathe on my own.
I am in recovery my friends. And I’m finding some pretty amazing things. You know that feeling when you mounted your bike the first time without training wheels, and you took to the road while your heart was beating and your breath was taken from you as you realized “I am doing this all on my own!” Remember how exhilarating that was? Yeah. It’s a lot, and also only a little like that.
It is a continual mixture of bittersweet sadness, earth shattering wow-ness and a deep, abiding self-trust that cannot be faked. As my heart heals, I can feel it beating on its own. This quality of love is opening from a point of being fastened, securely and permanently here, within my own chest.
Just as it has been all along.
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Editor: Renée Picard
Photos: elephant archives