Heartbreak

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)

As The Crow Flies – Crow Pose And (Broken) Noses

“Shit,” I thought, “if I broke my nose, I’ll have to wake up Matthias.”

Matthias is my roommate and of course it was 1am at night. I gingerly tested my nose, my fingers came away slightly bloody.

***

It started when I confidently posted in my fitness group that I could now consistently do crow pose.

No, further back, it started when I decided that I would do crow pose damnit! and went in search of strength experts to help my wobbly wrists grow stronger. I got the help I needed along with weekly accountability and stronger wrists. Two weeks ago I could hold myself up for five seconds for the first time. And since then I’ve moved to holding it fine most of the time. Most of the time.

To do this I carefully place my hands on a mat, fix a point slightly ahead of me. Put my knees on my arms and then lift one toe after the other off the ground until I’m precariously balanced on my hands. It’s a strange and exhilarating feeling.

Each day I noticed how I got more familiar with the pose and with the feeling, how I was getting stronger and more confident.

***

Then one night I decide that I can just do crow pose wherever. I have visions of myself balancing on rocks with sun-splashed waves crashing behind me with a delightful bokeh effect. And well “Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall” as they say in german. Overconfidence leads to stupidity, and trying to balance on your arms in the dark on a plain floor, when having a visual focus is part of keeping your balance IS stupidity.

And so I toppled over forward and couldn’t reach my hands in front of my face in time, for obvious reasons.

***

Like crow pose, balancing overconfidence and timidity in our habits is a constant precarious act, but, also like crow pose, one that can be learned. It’s learning the difference between standing up for oneself and brashly ignoring everyone else’s needs. It means knowing when it is ok to let people have their way and when you you are being a doormat. To most of us these distinctions don’t come naturally, but when we learn them it enables us to actively shape our lives. To live, as I like to say, more congruently.

***

As for the fall: Turns out my nose wasn’t broken, just badly bruised. I took a cold pack out of the fridge and stuck it on my nose to avoid giant purple signs of my stupidity. It seems I was lucky.
That day.