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Shortly after I discovered that my ex was having an affair with a friend of mine, I was out for a walk.
Thoughts were intruding about the affair—the lies, the deceit and the depth of betrayal. A thought crossed my mind, ”I will never trust another man again”, and it stopped me in my tracks. I stood silently, tears burning my eyes as I grappled with this notion of building a fortress around my bruised and aching heart. I wondered about the wisdom of locking my soft, vulnerable soul in a castle like Rapunzel where only the bravest soul could reach it. Echoes of Quarterflash rang through my head and I wondered if I, too, could “harden my heart and swallow my tears”.
Almost as instantly, another thought penetrated and that was very different. I like to think of it as my higher self, the wise part of me who knows what to do even when my emotions are raging against it. That part of me whispered, “don’t punish every man for what he did…not every man is like this.” If I let myself shut down, I knew I would be the one who would ultimately lose. I vowed to remain open, in spite of the ache.
You see, my higher self knew something that was escaping me—as lost in the fog of pain and betrayal as I was, my inner wisdom knew that shutting off my heart was not a selective experience. Sure, I could close down my feelings, learn how not to be penetrated by pain but I would also be locking away the part of me that knows how to love in spite of the risk. If I shut down, I would be cutting off the experience of pain as well as joy. C.S. Lewis once said,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Brene Brown said, “we cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions”. There is an art to remaining openhearted despite the heartbreaks we endure, and we learn it because living numb is not an option. Living openhearted in spite of the pain requires courage, willingness and disciplined awareness. It requires an ability to breathe through the pain, knowing there is something better on the other side. It requires endurance and a willingness to openly bleed without running to mask the pain. The dark of night makes the sunrise spectacular.
When you can remain openhearted in the face of devastation, you allow your heart to be stretched, expanded, and larger. On the other side of the heartbreak, you look back and marvel at the strength of your soul and the resilience of your spirit. You realize that, because you survived what seemed insurmountable, you are that much better for it.
There is a phrase, “the cracks are where the light gets in”, and in my own journey and the journey of the countless others I’ve worked with this has proven true. When your heart is broken into a million pieces, and brought back together with the loving attention you pour into it, it becomes even more beautiful. The Japanese practice an art called Kintsugi, which is where broken vessels are pieced back together with resin. The resin is then sprinkled with gold, silver or platinum powder to make the places where the cracks were repaired shine. The cracks are not something to hide, nor is a broken vessel something to be discarded. Rather, the Japanese see the cracks as a symbol of having existed on this planet.
The next time your heart is breaking and you want to throw it into a box, never to hear from it again, remember this: Remember that your value is not in never having been broken, but in the cracks that shine with the marking of an open heart that dared to live.
Author: Lisa Vallejos
Editor: Caroline Beaton