A broken heart is a strong heart.
Over a decade ago I moved into my very first apartment. As I unpacked, I dropped one of my wine glasses and it smashed into tiny pieces on the floor. It was one of the two I owned. I had spent $2 for the pair of them. Still, they managed to eek their way into a special spot in my life. I was 21, so the fact that I even had 2 wine glasses to speak of had been an accomplishment. When it dropped, it seemed as if all the memories it contained exploded out of it. As I swept up the pieces I recalled the awkward first date that eventually became one of the significant loves of my life that started with those wine glasses. I remembered a night running and squealing in the rain and drinking terrible cheap wine with friends. I had just moved to a new city, far away from home. Far away from the friends and the love with whom I remembered sharing wine. I mourned the loss of the glass, but it’s breaking brought all those treasured memories closer. Cracking something open can be more than just a shattering. It’s a releasing.
When my daughter was born over a year ago, something happened. It seemed as though I unpacked my heart from a box it had been in for decades. And then, I dropped it. And it smashed into billions of tiny pink pieces all over the floor. And when it broke, it released everything it had been holding onto. The heart stuff that I had collected, buried, and walled off all flooded out in a raw, tender mess.
Over the short time of my life I have learned a lot of techniques to shield and wall off my heart. I bury things. I create structures around things to separate my heart from everything else. I numb feelings with distraction. I make sure I am easy to like, easy to be around, and easy to love by hiding the things about myself that might be hard, uncomfortable, or messy.
When I became a parent, all of the techniques I used to know disappeared. Nothing would tolerate a burial. Nothing permitted being segregated into neat categories. None of the sharp edges could be dulled. All of the hard, uncomfortable, and messy parts of me sat out in the open for me and everyone else to see. My heart broke and so it released everything it held.
I’m not entirely sure how to live like this. Unlike a wine glass that can only break once, my heart can break over and over again. Releasing more and more each time. I remember the way my heart used to be: contained, guarded, sterilized. I used to carefully select what parts of myself I’d reveal and what would remain hidden. I became an overly edited version of myself. Now, everything pours forth and I don’t know how to temper the flow. There is so much more of me and I don’t know how to carry or express it all.
Despite my uncertainty, my heart is determined. It is a muscle after all and whether I want to or not, it has been exercised. My heart will not be getting weaker any time soon.