Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Broken Hearts and Bravery

My heart broke today. 
Or, it might be more apt to say I allowed my heart to break today.

By definition, heartbreak is when something you care for, love, and treasure ends up disappointing you. Is a façade. An untruth. Even if it’s one you created in your mind – people have their hearts broken on a weekly basis playing the lottery.

Heartbreak happens when something you try to control is beyond your control yet you still try to drive the destiny vehicle. Even if you try to try to avoid it (think of trying not to tell your kids that there is no Santa), circumstances that are fated to occur will happen. When you hold onto these things tightly, or you’re not ready for them to happen, the heart breaks. Shatters. Like an iPhone dropped on concrete.

Once you start to discuss your broken heart, people try to console you, relate to you with platitudes, empty words, niceties. “It’s going to be okay.” “You’ll find someone else.” “Be strong.” “Be Brave.”

Bravery. There’s an interesting concept. Many things that people believe take courage are the same things that lead us to heartbreak. Circumstances beyond our control.

I went away last weekend to New York City on my own. People continually said to me both before and after my trip, “Oh my, that was brave.”


“I couldn’t do that on my own.”

Why not?

“Oh, big city, crime, need people…”

Living life requires no courage. It requires oxygen, water, sustenance. We do what we have to do to survive. That isn’t courageous. That’s what we have been doing since we took our first breath outside of the womb.

Helping others so that they can continue to exist – that’s courageous. Whether you’re a first-line EMS responder, a soldier sent to battle to protect the innocent, someone who runs into a burning house to rescue a pet, or someone who consoles a crying child who is lost, those are courageous acts. Putting your needs before the needs of others. Taking the fork in your predestined route because you want to help a fellow human being requires a certain type of bravery that not everyone possesses.

Doing things for yourself is far from courageous. It’s just necessary. It’s not always easy. Sometimes it breaks your heart when you have to do something for yourself at the expense of others, like go on vacation to New York City alone because the thought of being around people you know makes you want to jump out of your skin and leave it in a pile at the bottom of the stairs for others to find. But you know if you don’t do it, your ability to be courageous and put the needs of others before those of your own becomes compromised.

And sometimes your heart breaks when you have to be courageous. Like giving someone the right to their happiness at the expense of yours, instead of holding onto something that is no longer there that could or will end up destroying the both of you. I don’t just mean romantic relationships. Any relationship  – friendships, parent/child, familial – can become destructive to the people involved if they try to control the wills of others. Your child will leave you, even if it’s only metaphorically. Your friends will grow apart and find new friends, even if they still talk to you every day. Romantic partners will have their heads turned by others they may find attractive. But it’s not up to you to make any of those people return or stay with you. The decision lies with them and them only. These things do not require your courage to survive nor need your heart to break over their occurrences. They will simply happen. You just need to let them.

We do what we have to do to live. But before you call people who contemplate and/or commit suicide cowards, think about this. Sometimes people don’t call for help because they believe they’re doing what’s best to save their loved ones from going through their suffering. When you are ill, sometimes you have the strength to fight the illness. Sometimes, you have fought long enough for others that you have left no strength for yourself. Sometimes people just need the courage of others for the strength to be brave.

My cousin who is queen of the calligraphic inspirational sayings on her Facebook page posted something today that I would have normally ignored, but my fingers were bleeding from the shards of my heart I’d spent all day picking up off the floor.

“Love is always right. Love is always meant. We are here to Love. So the more we Love, the more we remember our reason for being.”

It takes courage to give your love to someone, because it’s something that can help them to live, whether or not that love is returned. (If you are a parent of teenagers or you have a celebrity boyfriend/girlfriend, you know exactly what I mean.) If we simply live, we can avoid heartbreak through wisdom and understanding, while retaining our courage for love.


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