Heartbreak | Change and “Healing”

I return to the heartbreak topic one more time to just speak through some personal experiences regarding change and “healing” (I put healing in quotes to point to some difficulties in the concept which I will talk about below). I bring these topics up out of some frustration and insight in my own process and discussing with others. I can only hope that sharing these words here will make some others feel seen, understood, and accompanied on their own path.

Even before I was fully cut off from the person behind my heartbreak, I spoke to her and others about how dating others held little interest for me and how I knew it would be really difficult to find someone else who is what I want for a long-term committed partnership. She and most everyone else have challenged me, but when I really present my perspective, there’s not really any counterarguments to be made.

Here’s the thing. I have a couple decades of long-term relationships and dating women as experience. Furthermore, I have a background in psychology and data analysis, meaning I’m used to thinking of problems like “who is in the dating pool?” in terms of metrics and demographics. Over the last couple years, I’ve thought about what I would like in a future long-term partner, and for me, that means a high degree of compatibility. I have a solid list of what kinds of interests and personality traits I see working well with me in a way that I would feel excited to commit to, especially in ways that I see as being easier to work with than the problems I’ve had with previous partners. That being said, many of them are more like “open to my way of doing x”, not so much – “you have to do x too”, so they aren’t fully rigid, and I’m big on being a compromising and supportive partner as well.

It’s quite clear to me that a few of my marks for compatibility dramatically reduce the number of good matches to something like less than 10% of heterosexual/bisexual women in general out of the gate, and that’s not even factoring in aspects like age, location, availability, etc., and yet, people just tell me to do things like “cast my nets”, as though randomly trying with others will make them compatible or in complete ignorance/dismissal of what I know from my heart and a couple decades of experience is what I want for myself moving forward.

The funny thing in that is that in challenging a particular friend with a very logical, data-driven breakdown, she couldn’t argue, as she’s quite data-minded as well, but she replied that although she agreed, she found it incredibly sad because it’s a perspective where I likely don’t get a happy end.

However, that’s the thing. We’re told time and again that we will. That there’s “our person” out there, etc. That’s a very long-standing desire. It’s almost fundamental as an existential counterpoint to feeling your identity as a person in the world with the needs for connection, sex, understanding, and companionship. There are colorful versions of that deep in mythology across cultures, not to mention Aristophanes’ poetic depiction of it in Plato’s Symposium.

Here’s the other thing. That’s an existential security blanket. There’s no guarantee that there is such a person out there. There’s not even a guarantee there’s a great match out there. Furthermore, even if there is, there’s no guarantee they’re nearby, a good match in terms of age, or that they’re currently looking for a partner too. It’s tough to hear, but there’s no guarantee of a happy end for any of us. Truly, if you speak to many about their lives, it becomes clear that life is complicated with a variety of ups and downs and unforeseen circumstances in relationships. If anything, the guaranteed happy ending is a fairytale, just like we know that term really implies.

This mental shift for me – focusing on what I want, pushing myself to avoid stepping into a relationship where I just begin compromising so greatly out of the gate where I immediately end up sacrificing my wants to someone else’s, and enforcing boundaries to uphold this idea that “single > settling” is a big move for me, and it’s one I’m committed to. I’ve even tried to challenge my hypothesis by looking through hundreds and hundreds of dating profiles for my area online. Absolutely none of them have changed my perspective regarding how much of a needle in a haystack such a match would be – my sense of demographics and what I want is even probably more accurate than I initially realized.

Here’s my point, ultimately, with this post. This is a big change for me, and it’s one I intend to further, even if for the rest of my life. I’m trying hard to think of myself in a new light, a new role for my future. I’m trying to reimagine what I might end up having and how I can sit with it in the years ahead. I keep my heart and mind open to being surprised along the way, but I’m not going to run towards anything just out of the desire to not be alone. Even though that’s really hard for me and this is the most depressingly lonely time of my life (and seems to look out on a wide horizon of more of the same), I would much rather that than being in a relationship where I feel alone and unvalued with a person sitting right next to me.

Now, in relation to “healing”, I’ve received some critiques that my position will soften over time or that I will find the right person when I heal and go back to the old me. Honestly, I hope not – for one, because then all this insight and one of the only two big, meaningful experiences I’ve pulled from this time (perhaps I’ll write about the other sometime soon) feel empty, dramatic, and histrionic. That’s not my jam. Personal and spiritual processing for me has impact, it builds, and I ingrain such changes into my life. They’re not passing seasons. Maybe aspects of them lessen or wax and wane, but something remains to grow or be challenged moving forward. Ditching these insights for my old paradigm seems both against my more general approach to life and a step backwards into really unhealthy patterns. If anything, others should be hoping along with me that I don’t move back into that.

The problem with “healing” as a concept is that it’s often used in just that sense: some recovery of function that returns to the old. Sayings like “time heals all wounds” illustrate that idea. However, wounds can heal improperly. Function can return, but not the same as before. For instance, I sprained my ankle at 19, and it still bothers me from time to time. That ankle works well enough for the day to day, but it is not and will never be the same as before. Other physical injuries I’ve had are the same. If anything, healing over time isn’t a return to form, it’s an adapting to changes of the system to keep going on well enough. Granted, some wounds do heal by fully disappearing, like a scab on the skin, and an indication that there’s still an issue there shows a problem that hasn’t healed. The wound is still there, festering. This applies to not getting over animosity and hate or an inability to build trust again with someone who makes every effort to build it in clear good faith. I say such things with no judgment. Some psychological wounds are the absolute hardest to truly “heal”, and the best that can be hoped for is a moving on that works around the pain somehow.

In any case, a change into a different worldview about love and relationships and what I want from them doesn’t indicate that I have some sort of temporary bleeding wound that will scab over and disappear. There’s something to be said, valued, and appreciated about this kind of change and how it’s actually a healthy move forward, not the opposite.


May these words make others feel accompanied and understood in their own developing heartways.

Gassho!

Heartbreak Wisdom Journal — Entry 3: Wounds

Words have power. We seldom think about it. We throw them around as expendable–of little to no worth. Yet, if there is a magical element of the human being, it’s our ability to express the world through words. Words communicate. Words depict. Words create. Sometimes, words cut–like a weapon. This can leave a wound that festers like no other.

Some things that were said to me in the last conversations of my relationship have remained as wounds. Others recommend to let these things go, but if there is one thing that I have learned in meditation, such things cannot be forced. Whatever comes up, comes up. I can simply sit through it. Pushing thoughts and feelings away is engaging them with energy just as much as grabbing onto them and spinning them around in analysis. No. Letting go is relaxing the hand of the mind and letting the thoughts simply stream out of it. It is tender, and it is brave. It is the way of the awakened warrior.

One cut that has passed as a thought time and again is the moment in which I was blamed for her emotional reactivity. I was depicted as the cause of all negativity. Supposedly, no one else had this impact on her, and hence, I was some sort of emotional cancer–a tumor to be excised from her life in order to be healthy. Otherwise, according to her, she would never know peace. My mind reeled with the bizarre logic, unkindness, and completely victimizing unfairness of such an assessment. My counterexamples were batted away, and it was clear that nothing could be said to her in her dreamy haze of certainty.

Part of why this lingered is that I never fully shared this mind-crumbling bend of a moment in its complete emotional intensity with anyone else. In part, I didn’t because I didn’t want to spew blame and vitriol upon her to others. In part, I didn’t because I didn’t have the words to share such a moment at all, especially from a space of sharing without blame and aggression. I mentioned her words to friends, but the telling didn’t express the emotional nightmare of such a moment (like I said: I lack the ability to fully express)–the person you love the most in the world tells you that you are the cause of all negative feelings in her, and it’s implied that there is nothing good that you offer to your relationship with her.

I think that because of this inexpressibility, something remained held onto on a deep level–aching deep inside. No one could reassure me that that moment was completely whacked. No one could fully agree that those statements and ideas about emotional reactivity were hopelessly lost in the contrivances of a warped narrative. Instead, her words were taken at face value to some extent, and I was left wondering if I really was as horrible as she said I was. There was no one who could hear me and recognize me on the level of my own experience. From my therapy background, there was no one who could share my “felt sense”, and because of this, this sense stayed unfulfilled.

Last night, I was reading about meditation and lucid dreaming. I found unexpected recognition and release from this unlikely source. The book was talking about our perceptions and emotions. The book talks again and again about our “projections” on experiences–that the world we experience is always our interpretation of it, never the world in itself. My experience of the world is always mine, not the one that the world gives to me. I read: “Emotional reactivity does not originate “out there” in objects. It arises, is experienced, and ceases in you.” * I almost cried. Someone understood, and someone said the niggling feeling that I couldn’t quite put into words. Simple as it may be; I couldn’t say it, and the book said it for me. The feeling shifted, and my experience–the kernel of pain in that wound–unfolded.

Sometimes, to relax and let go of the thing that hurts, to allow the swollen inflammation of pain to subside, and to wash away a piece of ego, the thing we need most is to feel heard–to feel that “I” am not crazy. The feeling of an insanity that only affects myself leads to the grasping onto story and analysis of “me” more than anything else. It’s an isolating loneliness that makes a sense of myself distinct in contrast to everyone else. In being recognized, you can let go of those wounds that hurt so deeply, knowing that you are not alone.

May you feel seen, heard, understood, and recognized. May you find peace, love, and happiness. May you not have experiences that create wounds, and if you do, may you find the ability to express them and a person to listen authentically (if needs be, please post below. I’ll listen).

For the benefit of all who read this.
Gassho

*From “The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep” by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and Mark Dahlby, Kindle Edition


Previous Heartbreak Wisdom Journal Entry: Entry 2: Gentleness Toward Your Experience
Next Heartbreak Wisdom Journal Entry: Entry 4: Depression’s World

Heartbreak

I recently had a tarot reading to get insight into my life outside of the perspectives of friends and family, beyond the spheres of people who already know me. My reader, a middle-aged black woman with thick dreds, was an interesting voice to hear amid the many others in my life. She did several spreads to see where I am at and how to overcome my current difficulties. I initially was pretty quiet and vague, but as what she was saying touched on several layers that she didn’t know about/talk about, I opened up to her.

Her initial message, and it remained the most stressed throughout, was about my job and how to regain some personal autonomy in relationship to career. She said something about it that really struck me: I’m heartbroken about my job. She clarified that heartbreak can occur in more than just our romantic lives, and many never even think about heartbreak with a job.

As she spoke, and more so after the reading, I realized how heartbroken I am right now. I have heartbreak related to love, job, home, family, and friends. Everything seems to float without stability, path forward, or clarity for the greater flow of my life. So many things I love have been cut out of my existence, have been dramatically altered, or have consistently done me ill while claiming to do me well. How do you move forward through such miasma? I have by the only way I know how: nurturing myself. Hence, I have been writing so much, meditating, and exercising. I have been talking things out with friends, and I’ve even been developing my intuition more by using the I Ching and tarot as oracles to broaden my perspectives about my life. Finally, beyond my usual self-care in times of difficulty, I’ve tried to improve my situation. If I’m heartbroken, particularly about my job, let me remedy that.

A few weeks ago, I did a meditation. Although not intended, it too was about heartbreak. I sat on the floor and breathed deeply with my hands over my heart in the shape of a triangle. I felt the energy pulse out of these three sides, throbbing out and reaching into the world around me. After some time, I put my hands down and asked myself: “If my heart were planted, what would it grow into?” I saw a vibrant blue flower open up, both beautiful and melancholy, filling my chest. When it opened, a personal object (I’m not willing to share this detail here) was dark and lifeless in the flower’s center. It felt like the culmination of a sad message, emphasizing my separation and loss of love, indicating the death of a deep connection. Then, the object shattered and bright, spiky, red petals burst forth, making the flower vibrant and hopeful. However, this did not seem like an erasure of the old, rather a rebirth from/of it. Like the phoenix, the new grows from the ashes of the old. The object shattered and reformed a few times, telling me that the break offers the possibility of growing into something more beautiful, powerful, healthy, and alive.

As for all of you, I’ll let you make what you will of such a meditation, but to me, it says one thing about heartbreak: even when things are very painful and it all feels meaningless, the possibility for change, growth, and rebirth lies hidden within that experience. It may be hard to see it, and it may be even harder to continue onward towards that, but it’s there, somewhere, just waiting for the moment to burst forth.

symptoms-of-a-broken-heart

Something new could pour forth from that hole…

This reminds me… I recently read a friend’s linked article about how we should court heartbreak to grow; we should break up and leave relationships behind when they become difficult because we’ll grow towards something better, and we’re doing ourselves a service. What I’m saying here does not support that at all. One thing that’s become clear to me in the last few months is how deeply we get caught up in our stories about ourselves. Some of my other posts touch on this. Leaving relationships, courting heartbreak, for personal growth, for pursuing your own narrative can be quite a confused and lost approach. Perhaps there could be value in this, but it is something that should not be taken lightly and certainly should not be presented as a hard and fast rule. It should be something that is examined through work with a therapist, someone who can challenge and disentangle the bad faith of the stories we tell ourselves, the things we refuse to see about ourselves, and the difficulties for personal growth in our relationships that we are unwilling to show up to and face for our own improvement. The problem with the stance in that article is not recognizing the opportunity in the difficulty of interpersonal dynamics to grow and change for the better. Breaking away is not what presents the room for growth; it’s the challenge of facing change that presents it. You can either own up to your place in a relationship and ask your partner to do so with you, working together for growth, or you can throw that all behind for “my growth”, “my story”, “my truth”. I’m not saying that the second option is always confused and self-involved, hardly, but I think there is a much greater likelihood of that being the case than that path being an authentic, examined, and clear engagement with all of the issues I’m presenting here. The point: heartbreak, when it comes, can be an opportunity for growth, but you shouldn’t seek to break your own heart in order to grow towards something “more authentic to you”. There is already authenticity in your connections; otherwise, it wouldn’t break your heart to leave them (not that I’m saying it isn’t hard to leave relationships that are bad for you; of course it is, but there is at least something good in the ones that really break your heart down to the foundations–real heartbreak, not just loss), and if your connections are that meaningful, there’s something to be gained from them if you are willing to dance with your partner and they are too.

This post has become a much longer meditation on heartbreak than originally envisioned. Let’s summarize what I would like to share about heartbreak. 1) you can be heartbroken about many more things in your life than just romantic relationships. 2) if you are going through heartbreak, do what you can for yourself to survive and eventually thrive. If you can work toward changing your situation, do it. Be your own healer, and remedy yourself. 3) heartbreak does not mean the end. There is possibility for new growth in the death of the old. 4) don’t throw things away from a willingness to break your own heart out of some simple idea of it being your story. Really think about relationships and how to grow in them. They hold potential if you are willing to dance with your partner and love together.

A great and famous writer recently told me to experience heartbreak in order to improve my writing. He said that going through heartbreak would offer the opportunity to process things and write better. Whether that’s true or not, I’m definitely doing that now, and I thank you all for sharing in that process. I hope that this post gives you your own insight and inspiration, especially if you have your own pained heart to heal.

I know… The heart chakra isn’t directly about what I’m discussing here, but maybe your growth lies in this aspect of your relationship with All coming into a healthier alignment. Maybe your heart needs healing in more ways than one…

Gassho

A Scab

I pulled a scab off my knee today.
The red, irritated skin underneath
Breathed with fresh life.
No longer a tingling itch
Behind a brown carapace.
No longer a patch of “skin”
Lacking the intimate
Sensitivity of touch.
I felt renewed, yet vulnerable
And aware of my frailty.

The skin was scraped away
In a moment – blood
Suddenly seeping out
Of an aching hole,
A surprising, spontaneous lack
Of a piece of me,
So minor and present
Merely moments before.
Now, two weeks later,
The red of the blood
Matches the newly born,
Red skin…

I now have a scrape on my heart,
A place of lack, ache, and emotions
Seeping through to fill the wound.
How long will this take to heal?
When will I peel back
The crystallized feelings
Finding a renewed, yet vulnerable
Heart underneath?