Monday, May 5, 2014

To risk loving...

David Whyte wrote, "Heartbreak is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control, of holding in our affections those who inevitably move beyond our line of sight. Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is our indication of sincerity: in a love relationship, in a work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is just as much an essence and emblem of care as the spiritual athlete’s quick but abstract ability to let go. Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going."  (©2013 David Whyte.  Excerpted from HEARTBREAK From the upcoming book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.)

I've found myself sitting with this quote a great deal this last week.  As I mentioned in my article about trust, loving and trusting are risks we take.  They are part of living, truly living, but they do involve risk.  When we choose to love, we are taking the risk of heartbreak.  When we choose to trust, we are taking the risk of being betrayed.  And I think that most of us strive to find a balance - we choose to trust those we think are trustworthy.  We choose to love the "sure thing" or to love those who are most likely to love us in return so we aren't hurt as often, so our hearts aren't broken.  But even with precautions, our hearts still get broken, in big things and in small.  Even things not being quite the way we thought they were or hoped they would be are heartbreaks that we experience when we truly care.

In the face of that, I love the idea that "heartbreak is our indication of sincerity", and, as he says further in the same article, "heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way…"

I think one of the hardest things about heartbreak can be the feeling that we care so much and so deeply about someone who does not feel the same way (and as always, this can be family, friend or romantic relationship - any of it).  Having our hearts broken while watching our loved one's joy can lead us to feel unworthy, unlovable, "less than".  But I think Whyte's article actually gave me a different perspective to stand on.  To love, to put ourselves fully out there, to risk caring - these are the very things that make us human, that make us "worthy".  The more deeply we love, the more deeply we reach into our humanity and into the greatest sense and source of our worth and being.  (The other side of this then is that when someone can give us up, can let us go, without a sense of loss, or "heartbreak" that is an indication of a LACK of sincerity, a lack of depth to the love they gave.  And eventually, we have to realize that this was not a love we would have wanted or that would have served us in the long run anyway.)

But the next step then is what do we do with that heartbreak?  As a family we just finished watching, for the first time, Star Wars I, II and III.  Watching Anakin descend into the dark side because of his heartbreak was powerful for me in many ways.  First it was a reminder that evil does not manifest from no-where.  Evil comes when people are hurt and handle that hurt badly.  Or, to be even more precise, evil happens when we are willing to do anything to AVOID that heartbreak which is so central a part of life, of living, of being human.  And again, the result?  Even when you strive to avoid the heartbreak, it comes.  No matter what you do to avoid it, it still comes.  Anakin still lost Padme, despite the fact that he turned to the dark side in order to save - BECAUSE of the fact that he turned to the dark side in order to save her.

So once again, we are faced with a simple truth.  We can do everything to avoid the heartbreak.  We can be determined not to love. We can choose evil and hate instead.  We can isolate ourselves.  We can do all kinds of things that keep us from loving and living.  And will we then be able to avoid heartbreak?  Still, the answer remains NO.  So we have a choice.  We can live and love and have our hearts broken.  Or we can die and hate and have our hearts broken.  If we choose the second, we fail to live and our lives are simply dark.  But if we choose the first, while we will still have broken hearts, we will also find love, live love, and experience great joy as well.  And the love that we find and create and participate in can also heal us from heartbreak.  Seems an obvious choice to me.  Not always an easy choice, but an obvious one.