I glanced at them to see how old they were, to asses if high school was a recent memory or more of a distant one, and guessed they each were in their late twenties or early thirties based on their professional attire, natural make-up and done-up hair.
They continued to gush about how lucky their friend was while I rolled the idea of life without romantic heartbreak around in my mind. “Did I agree with them? Would life be better, easier without heartbreak?”
There are certainly levels of anguish that cracks one’s heart open. Everyone has their own unique experience of grief and loss. This girl Stephanie may have a different version of heartbreak, the kind that happens inside the confines of a long term relationship but these girls are talking about the breaking that reduces you to a heap on the floor full of despair and longing for a person who has left your life, or the kind where despite your leaving said person, you are still filled with grief and a sadness that runs so deeply you swear you’re never going to fall in love again because who wants another round of that?
I thought about the first time I felt the breaking of my own heart after falling so completely in love I thought it would last forever. It sparked when I was sixteen, in fourth period Biology with my best friend and lasted until I was twenty three. In many ways, it never went away. I will always hold a special place in my heart for him, the experience and the love I felt forever, but as it was tearing apart, I felt physical pain. My heart hurt. It literally ached. My stomach was tight and clenched as I started grieving the loss of the relationship before it ended. I felt silly for how much grief I was experiencing because I was the one to end it. I thought I didn’t deserve to feel such things but, I digress.
Later, other people filtered into my experience. Over and over my heart was poked at, pierced, shattered and tossed aside. I fell fast and loved hard, often for the wrong reasons. I wanted men to fill the gaps where I thought I was lacking. I admit I wanted to be rescued from my incessant desire to shut off the negative thoughts, the “not enoughness”, the feelings of needing to hide that constantly flooded my head. I wanted them to break the cycle, wanted them to give me everything I felt I could not give myself.
No one wants to sign up for that. No one wants to be the glue that binds another’s broken pieces together. It’s not fair and has taken years of experience to see that it’s not anyone’s work but my own to make the fragments fit together again.
My heart beats stronger because every time it breaks, I rebuild it. The scar tissue hardens over but doesn’t harden me as a person. I still give freely and openly to the dear ones that I connect with because I want the experience of love. Running from my fear of heartbreak means disallowing the full experience of loving and being loved.
I want the practice of giving, of sharing, of being vulnerable and intimate with another heart, another human being. I’m still learning and feeling my way through it all. I trust that when my heart breaks again, I am strong and capable enough to put everything back together.
Without heartbreak would I know the depths of my ability to love? Every time my heart breaks, and I sink into that dark space, fumbling around, picking up the pieces, cutting my fingers on the sharp bits, I eventually emerge into the light of day and when the hurt subsides, I do it all over again. I slip into all kinds of love that continually expands who I am. I love harder and deeper because I understand the resilience of my own heart and trust that I can get through whatever is in front of me.
I discovered this inner strength through the feelings and experiences of gaining and losing love. When I think about the idea of never undergoing heartbreak, I prefer my experience to that of not having walked through that fire. I relate to others who have also gone through it and can offer compassion to those who are in the thick of it.
Does it hurt? For sure. Would I like to fast forward through some (ok, all) of that hurt? Absolutely. I want to feel good all the time. I want to feel all of the love all of the time and sometimes part of that love is feeling the pulling apart of a relationship so I and the other person can continue to grow in a way that suits us best.
I wouldn’t take away any of the experiences I’ve had with the people I’ve encountered while traipsing through the forest of my life because it’s all made me the person I am right here in this moment. If I subtracted one person, one incident, even one day, my entire trajectory would have shifted and I like where things are today. I like knowing the contrast I’ve lived through has helped me to love you more than I ever thought possible.