Broken Hearts

A broken heart can seem like the end of the world. But, if you give yourself a chance, it can also be the beginning of a new world.

Sometimes we don’t feel we have the ability to defend ourselves from a broken heart. Things just happen to us. They come and overwhelm us, sometimes making it hard to breathe. And it can seem too challenging to believe there is any way to reassemble our lives and reclaim our heart.

I have a story to tell you about this.

My sister, Alison, and I like to try out various art classes. We decided it would be fun to do some stained-glass work, so signed up and when the time came, showed up at the studio. As is often the case, I was the only man present. I’ve grown accustomed to this and the mothering I usually receive from the women taking the class.

There were seven or eight of us present. The instructor was very pleasant and helpful and guided us through the process and various techniques we would be using. When she was done with her introductory comments, she asked us to wander around and choose the glass pieces that appealed to us.

It was a lot of fun seeing all the various sizes, colors, and textures of the glass pieces. I gathered what I thought would be enough to complete my project and sat down next to my sister.

At first, I began randomly placing pieces in my frame. I really didn’t have any preconceived idea how my project would turn out. I was just ‘winging it’. At some point I realized I didn’t like how it looked, so I tipped out all the pieces onto the table.

There were a host of shrieks and everyone in the class turned toward me. They simply could not believe I’d done that and were upset on my behalf. Some thought it must have been an accident. Others were convinced I was upset or crazy. Once they knew it was an intentional act on my part, they all wanted to know WHY?

I told them I’d changed my mind. I looked at the assembled stained-glass pieces and I didn’t like what I saw. I told them I needed to start over and that it would be okay. They didn’t seem at all reassured and went back to their own projects, shaking their heads.

I began again. This time though the pieces fell easily into place. I noticed a surprising calmness inside of me. I’d followed my own inner guidance and as I looked down, an incredible thing happened. A beautiful image appeared. It was Mary, the mother of Jesus, dressed in a blue swirling shroud. I looked more carefully and noticed she was holding a broken heart in her hands. I knew she was mending it. I sat there in complete awe.

Of all the artwork I have created, it is by far my most favorite.

It speaks to me. I hear gently words she shared about how to mend a broken heart.

She told me that it is only when we choose to feel what we are feeling that we can begin. We know it’s going to be painful and yet, I feel there is a promise in this for us, that once we allow the pain in and recognize its presence, it becomes ready to leave us. We can let it go, making space for something new to take its place. And we can start over. We can be patient and watchful, looking for a new life to emerge. We can open our hearts, so we can experience new dreams. And, although it seems impossible to us, we can be grateful. Grateful that life does not end with a broken heart. If we allow it, our life can begin again. Our hearts can be mended.

I think about this every time I look at my beautiful stained-glass artwork hanging in my office window. Sometimes first thing in the morning the rising sun lights it up and I sense the truth that no heart is ever beyond mending.

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In Pain, Consider Gratitude

You may think I am crazy, and perhaps in some ways I am.

The thought of offering gratitude when you are in pain runs contrary to how we’ve grown up in the world and I was tempted to shy away from this post topic. But, I couldn’t, mostly because that’s where I have been for the last several days.

It’s one of those inexplicable cases where I felt fine one moment and not the next. No obvious precipitating event seemed to lead to my misery.

I simply had progressively worsening pain in my right groin area that made it extremely difficult to move, bend or raise and lower my right leg. As a consequence, I relied almost exclusively on my left side and upper body to carry my weight, causing additional problems.

I’ve had something similar to this happen to me before, but never with as much pain.

I tried to understand why this was happening to me. I recognize this is one of my default settings- needing to know the reason(s) for things in my life. But, I also recognize now how useless pursuing this line of thought is. It doesn’t resolve the problem, takes me away from helpful courses of action and even if I knew exactly how the problem occurred, what benefit would that serve at the moment?

So, I tried to take a step back and accept that something had happened and it was now up to me to choose how to react.

My first thought was to feel a little sorry for myself because I anticipated that the pain was going to be with me for several days, given how sharp and intense it was.

I’ve learned to try to follow my natural reactions, but not get caught up and stuck in them. So, I pushed a little further.

Yes, there was pain, but what else. Was there something hidden that could be revealed? Could I discover any reason(s) to be grateful for this experience?

Now that is a challenging question and one I don’t feel I was completely ready for. And yet, I knew it was important to consider it. So, I asked myself, what gratitude exists here for me?

The first thought that came to me was that there are folks who are available to me to help; my wife, chiropractor, doctor, family, friends, the pharmacy. I wasn’t alone in this.

I got into the spirit of this exercise.

Instead of being angry that I didn’t get my usual 7-8 hours of sleep, I was grateful for the four hours of sleep I did get. I was grateful that I would be able to seek medical help. I was grateful that my back was okay, despite the extra load placed on it, which is a huge thing for me.

I thought about the timing of this event and expressed gratitude that it had happened when it did, rather than during my recent vacations. It would have severely limited my ability to enjoy them fully. But it happened after them and long enough before our next vacation, so I have time to recover.

I continued listing reasons to be grateful and allowed my physical suffering to exist, but not to overwhelm me. I admit this takes a certain amount of commitment and concentration, but the value to me has been extraordinary, not only for this episode, but to carry with me into the future.

This idea may seem too challenging and not one you can easily accept, but had I not opened to the idea, I would not have discovered gratitude’s great power and beauty. I ask only that you consider seeing if it might offer you the same.

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