We have this idea of heartbreak.
When my mom died it truly felt like my heart had shattered into a million pieces. And yet here it still is, beating. Sometimes gently sometimes more forcefully.
The idea doesn’t work. Only something brittle and hard can shatter.
Of course, so much of our culture is built around hardening the heart, armoring it against pain and adversity.
What if, when we experience heartbreak, it wasn’t our heart breaking, but the armor we have placed around it?
And what if we didn’t frantically try to piece the armor back together, and instead held our tender hurting heart?
What if we nurtured it like a bird with a broken wing?
What if strengthened it, expanded it’s capacity to hold and release pain?
Five years ago this April I went on my first Camino.
One day our path took us along a long rocky road in the Meseta. The Meseta is characterized by it’s flat land and straight roads, wheat as far as the eye can see. This road had been first built by the Romans and the stones that had churned up in the intervening centuries made for difficult walking. My friend and I walked until we arrived, physically exhausted, at the Albergue in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos. I lay down in the grass of the little village square, above me leaves of red and green.
And my heart broke.
In the most joyful, exuberant way.
For years I had kept it armored in walls of heavy stone that all of a sudden crumbled. My body shook, I cried great heaving sobs, and when it was done I got up, lighter than I had ever felt.
The rest of that journey I spent learning to hold my sweet tender heart, which was not yet able to hold all the love, frightened at being so bare.
It says a lot about the pilgrim community, about my brothers and sisters on the Way, that my heart chose to break in their care.
It’s a learning process, or actually an UNlearning process, to let the heart be tender, to let it grow strong enough and big enough to experience the fullness of love and pain.
When my mother died my heart freed itself of the last remnants of armor, shatterd and never to be repaired. It screamed with anguish and continued beating, because that is what a living, tender heart does.
Today would have been her 56th birthday. And it seems to have become a habit that twice a year, on her birthday and her deathday, I check in with my heart, with my life and with my path.
Would she be happy for me?
Would I be excited to tell her of my plans?
What parts of me need to receive her motherly love, made up of unconditional support and a kick in the butt?
Yeah, it still hurts. Like fuck, actually. And also with the infinite wisdom gained in the last 18 months wink emoticon I realize that she’ll always be there.
„Your whole heart’s a village
Everyone you love has built it
And I’ve been working there myself
And that’s where I’ll be
With a front-row seat
To watch you live your life well
And I know you’ll live your life well“
~ Cam (Village)