“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~Leonard Cohen
Over the past ten months, I have become intimate with heartbreak and familiar with loss. My twenty-one year relationship abruptly ended. My beloved dog Maggie died; and two of my close family members are slipping away under the deep waters of dementia. It has been both an exceptionally difficult and a transformative time.
Heartbreak is a visceral experience. Your heart literally feels like it is breaking inside of your chest. It clenches. It aches. Pain manifests itself as tightness in your throat and tension in your shoulders. It pulls down heavily on your ankles and arms. It whispers seductively in your ear: “Lie down. Rest here. Don’t move. Stay still.” It is in these moments that I cling onto the mantra: there is no way out but through.
Through the experience of loss, I have been given the gift of seeing the people and world around me, with new lens. I have experienced the incredible kindness, love and compassion of those around me: my friends, family, work colleagues and community. I have realized that I am not alone. People want to help. They walk the path alongside of me. They will hold me up, when I cannot walk by myself. My biggest challenge is to accept this help and to receive this love: something that is difficult to do when you are used to giving it all away.
I have learned that when a heart breaks, it not only cracks open, it expands. Grief reveals the depth of sadness and it reveals the breadth of love. It will show you the sphere of life, if you let it: birth. death. love. loss. light. dark. All of it interconnected sides of one perfect whole.
Someone once told me: “You cannot selectively numb yourself. When you numb pain you numb joy.” This is so true. I have learned that it is essential to allow space for sadness, grief and anger to come through. It is not only key to healing; it will give you a deeper appreciation of joy and love. I now understand that, despite my deepest fear, allowing these emotions to just be will not swallow me. Feeling these emotions deeply will not cause lasting harm. They will come and then they will go. It is all temporal and transitory. Less resistance equals less suffering.
In and amongst all of the changes in my life, I have gained clarity on what I deeply care about: the things that creates inner peace; the actions that offers me joy. I have defined where my boundaries start and where they end; and the more that I clearly understand these things, the brighter my inner fire burns. The easier it is to stay rooted yet pliable while the ground around me shakes.