Thursday, June 26, 2008

When the Heart Breaks

Heartbreak again. I know it so well, and it never fails to knock me to my knees like a sucker punch. Standing at the bus stop, walking in circles to keep myself from collapse, hoping against hope that the person who could take that pain away might appear out of the blue, seeing him in a car parked on the street, in a color, in a pair of stranger’s sunglasses, barely bothering to hold back the tears, I vaguely wonder what the other girl waiting there is thinking. I wonder what her heartbreak has been. On the bus, I wonder what sorrows the other passengers have seen. The woman in her wheelchair, talking softly to her companion; the teenaged couple – she black, he white – huddled with heads together, her eyes darting everywhere but never focusing on him; the older people who have probably loved and lost more than I could ever imagine; the young girl arguing with her mom on her cell phone.

Something funny happens when my heart breaks. I noticed it the last few times I’ve felt like this, and maybe – hopefully - it means that all my struggles in love haven’t been in vain. It’s this: when my heart breaks, just when I think I can’t take the pain anymore, it breaks further – and opens up. I let go, I feel warmth in my solar plexus, and I can see everything in the eyes of the people around me. The joy, the pain, the struggle, the universal human wish to be really, truly, at home and at peace.

When my heart breaks, I feel empathy where there was antipathy, love where there was ambivalence. I feel connected to the universe in a way I don’t when things are going “right”, when I feel so confident and in control.

When my heart breaks, my fear and judgment fade, and the people around me are all just people struggling, the way I struggle; wanting love the way I want love; mostly doing their best, often saying or doing the wrong thing, and all wanting the same things: to be seen, heard, understood, to be loved, and to give love.

When my heart breaks, it’s like I can feel all the pain in the world and can take it into myself, the way the Buddhists do in tonglen practice. I want to relieve suffering, because I suffer. Rather than hardening into resentment and anger, when my heart breaks, I soften into love.

Isn’t that strange?

Today, on my way home from work, I found myself analyzing the pain. What does it feel like? It’s a gaping wound in my gut, it’s a weird shifting sensation, like there’s no center to hold on to, it’s grief, it’s wanting, and, what’s so odd: it’s pure love. And just like that, I knew the answer to the pain. I knew that the answer wasn’t resentment, or anger, or hatred, or demanding answers, or lashing out, or crying (well, maybe just a little) or drinking, or mindless sex with someone else to take away the loneliness. The answer was so easy and simple: it’s love.

So, I walked home, and the mantra that popped into my head, that I kept saying over and over to myself, that seemed to ease the aching in my heart was “I send all my love; I send all my love.”

So I send all love to you, C, I hope you find your happiness. I want nothing more than to feel your arms around me right now. But if that can’t be, then go with peace. You deserve it.
I send all love to J, who taught me what unconditional love feels like, and what it feels like to really let go.
I send all love to R, because I hurt you and I didn’t know how not to.
I send all love to F because I should have treasured your love and instead I threw it away like trash. I think of you often, and wish things had turned out differently. I think you’re happy now, and I’m so glad.

I send all love to all the people I’ve disappointed and hurt. I caused hurt not because I was mean, but because I was clumsy.
I send all love to the people who have disappointed me. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, and even if you did, you did it from your own struggle.
I send all love to the people who I’ve judged harshly.
I send all love to the people who reached out to me and who I rebuffed or ignored. I don’t always see or appreciate the love that’s offered. Heartbreak reminds me to be more careful of others’ hearts.

I send all love to M, my closest and best friend, who has been so patient and loving to me and who taught me what it means to be a friend.
I send all love to my friend JN, he of insight and humor, who keeps me laughing and thinking, both.

I send all love to the people who are fighting the flames right now; the red sun and my burning nose remind me to keep you in my thoughts.
I send all love to the people who are fighting the floods right now; may you stem the tide and find peace again.

I send all love to all beings who struggle and hope. My heartbreak reminds me of the essential truth that we’re all in this together, and that there is no enemy.

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