Yesterday, amidst a busy day, one of my students popped into my office and asked if she could hang out while I worked. She told me that my presence calms her, and I returned the sentiment. She slumped onto the couch, and I stood at my desk, typing a meeting agenda from the notes in my head. ‘I found a quote that made me think of you,’ she said. I braced, glancing up.
‘Yeah?’ I said.
When you’re deeply sensitive, love is ecstasy. Music is godlike. Heartache is a wide, somatic wound. Visual natural beauty is jewel-drenched, wild bliss. Tension and conflict are muscle-tightening and toxic, straight down to the cells.
I let the quote wash over me, considering my tangles with love and heartache. The word ‘somatic’ resonated within. ‘Yes,’ I thought, considering the near-tangibility of that pain. I exhaled. Scars still ache, sometimes, at the memory of their birth.
November is a contemplative time; the unfurling of leaves, the slow stretch of the world into slumber, the letting go, the setting free. I have a playlist called ‘November.’ I built it, once, out of odes to the burgeoning love I was feeling. Now that tree is bare, perhaps, but I’ll let the playlist stand. I’m glad I felt the love to built it.
A friend sent me a video last night, a music video called ‘All We Do’ by Oh Wonder. The song is played under people’s answers regarding what it means to be human. My friend asked for my response to the video, but secondarily. He wanted to know my answer to what it means to be human.
My answer, written as I sat and sorted through the feelings I was carrying then and there, was this: ‘My answer, right here and in this mood, is somewhere in this vicinity: Being human means being aware of all of it – of life and death, of the plurality of lives we could have lived and could be living, of the future and the past – and still trying to exist where and when we are.’
My friend, sensing my pain, offered me this: ‘What I know is this: You are going to feel multitudes because you contain multitudes.’
This is just a reminder that being human also means being seen, on occasion, by humans who can help us shoulder the burdens.
I look at the past few years, and I realize that, though the path to the future has been rockier than expected, it has also been authentic. Each break, each ripped thread and unfurling, has pushed me into a healing that has taught me to allow myself to breathe. No more pulling my loose threads into bundles and calling this strength. No more hiding behind perfection and calling it happiness.
Here are, in my mind, mistakes worth making. Thing I refuse to regret:
Trying new things.
Very rarely are we good at things the first time we do them. Some things, no matter how many times we try at them, will not fall within our realm of ability. These include the things of which we dream. But, if we don’t expand our experience and take the risk of failure, we will live insular lives. A life within the margins.
Try new things. Fail forward. Let your life be a great, wild experiment. Expand, expand, take in all that you can.
This one’s easy in theory, but much harder in practice. In the days and weeks after my heart was broken, I struggled not to feel foolish, blind, embarrassed. I had hustled, run miles and miles, to paint my love into action, to make for him a mural of everything I felt and all we could be. Ending that sprint in a stumble, my body on the pavement, chest heaving, knees and palms freshly scraped, felt like a cosmic bait-and-switch.
Some learned lessons? Love is not a transaction, given only under guarantee of receiving it in return. Love is not safe, and the search for it demands vulnerability, which demands courage (because most of us will learn what it feels like to hold our hearts out and be met with rejection). Love runs our blood red, and the key to healing heartache is finding the courage to get up and give love again.
Being the one to say ‘sorry.’
This falls under the category of ‘giving love,’ maybe, but it’s worthy of its own note. I was taught, growing up, that the stronger person is the one who is first willing to say sorry. My mother, a remarkable leader and influence on my character, taught me and my siblings to forgive each other. We are always relieved to end our disputes in hugs, in breaking down the walls we’ve freshly built.
There’s a selfish benefit here, too. Forgiveness sets us free. I have found that, even in my moments of greatest pain, it heals my heart to share with others the memories and qualities of the people I’m working to love.
Self-explanatory, really. Just Google images of ‘bread.’