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“I love you today, but I don’t think I can love you in the long run.”
My boyfriend said this to me on a moonlit beach in Phuket, Thailand. I held those words as if they were shards of glass and used them to slash my heart in the tenderest of places.
The heartbreak that followed was akin to a city having been decimated by a single bomb. It took a year to rebuild my self-esteem, to stop hearing the echo of those words inside my head, and stop believing that I was unlovable.
During my marriage, the heartbreaks that my husband and I inflicted upon each other went unrepaired—for 18 years. We applied gauze made of denial, fine wine, vacations, and children but in the end—heartbreak took us down.
Then followed the heartbreak of betrayal and the heartbreak of helplessness, of watching someone I love move on in happiness and freedom while I tended to my pain in solitude.
The Japanese have an ancient philosophy of wabi-sabi, which is the ability to see the beauty in the flawed and imperfect. It is what the art of Kintsugi, or golden joinery, is based upon; broken pieces of pottery are joined together using special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold.
The fractured pieces are brought back together with beautiful seams of gold to create a one-of-a-kind appearance.
What if heartbreak is nothing more than an invitation to mend—to face ourselves in our most delicate vulnerability—and love ourselves back into perfect imperfection?
There is something deliciously tender in caring for our heartbreak.
At 16, I was forced by my parents to break up with my first boyfriend. It had something to do with my stepfather’s belief that people with red hair could not be trusted, and my boyfriend had thick, flaming-red hair.
I remember the sweet torture of sitting on the living floor while listening to “It’s Hard to say I’m Sorry” by Chicago, on repeat. With red-rimmed eyes and the sides of my nose scraped raw from being wiped, my voice broke right along with my heart as I sang the lyrics with Peter Cetera—believing myself to be the only human on earth experiencing this level of suffering.
The pain was exquisite—razor-sharp.
It cut deep into an older pain that had been waiting for this unearthing to rise to the surface: the heartbreak of having to leave my homeland three years earlier, resulting in the loss of my grandparents, my friends, and my mother-tongue.
I didn’t know then, that I was apprenticing in the art of Kintsugi. I was learning how to bring the broken parts of my heart back together.
When we open ourselves to love, the possibility of heartbreak is the post-script at the bottom of the invitation—it cannot be avoided. It happens the moment we are called to let go but refuse. We live in denial.
We believe if we only avert our eyes from the wreckage in our heart, we’ll be spared the pain. We focus our energies outward. We start a new relationship, accept a new job, move to a new house, a new country, have another baby, or an affair—all in an attempt to outrun the pain of heartbreak.
But it festers instead.
Heartbreak is an emotional fracture, possibly even a spiritual one. Symptoms of heartbreak can be:
>> Shoulders rolled forward to protect our sensitive heart area.
>> Frequent bouts of crying.
>> Feeling of heaviness.
>> Loss of interest in activities, things, and people.
>> A general melancholy of our spirit.
>> An internal movie titled, “The Good Times” tortures us at 3:00 a.m.
>> A desire to time travel to the past and change things.
>> The incessant looping of “what if:” what if I had done that, or hadn’t done that? What if he did that, or hadn’t done that?
>> Plans of revenge.
>> A refusal to accept reality.
Healing heartbreak is work and does not come without risk.
We can fool ourselves into believing that the only way we can heal is if we inflict equal pain upon the one who hurt us. We can plan intricate revenge, attack the other over social media, and weave elaborate plans of retaliation in our minds that ultimately only serve to keep the heartbreak alive.
We become addicted to the pain.
The danger of staying in this purging phase too long is that it blocks us from approaching our hurt with an open hand and offering the medicine of self-love and self-care.
We have the power to invoke our inner alchemist and prepare the gold with which to mend our broken heart.
This work is painful. It will force us to retreat, to go within, and shine a light inside our hearts to reveal the oldest of our wounds. It will open us to vulnerability and courage, two oars of the same boat that propel us forward with integrity.
Healing from heartbreak requires intention, and focusing our attention inward. It requires that we ask ourselves the hard questions, and dive deep into our past to uncover patterns that have kept us trapped in the cycle of codependence, addiction, and self-abuse.
The willingness to feel the totality of our heartbreak is the willingness to accept our humanness.
In order for the mending to begin, we must dare to open up completely to our pain—it is a rite of passage. There are no shortcuts. Each time we choose courage instead of blame, we apply a little of that lacquer—a little of that gold—that brings the broken parts of our hearts back together.
Heartbreak has the power to soften or harden us; to open or close us. To pull off layers of old hurt or wrap us in bubble wrap.
The choice is ours.
The only ingredient necessary to healing our broken hearts is surrender, the bonding vein of gold that will at last connect us to the love of our life—ourselves.
“I said: What about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning.
I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Mend your Heart with Gold in your own Heartbreak Ritual:
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