Heartbreak

::Starry Night::

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Starry Night Sky

 

The depth and breadth of the things in this building suck the oxygen out of the room.

  • First exhibit, childhood. Promises to hold,     support, love … to encourage and protect. They   lie in pieces on the ground, dusty and forgotten.   Forgotten to everyone but me. Check check   check. Check check.
  • Up the escalator to the mezzanine, is high school, and teenage years. Potential recognized and undermined. The remnants of hope’s fire, a burnt offering of the dreams held there. A young girl with no one to reflect back to her the truth of who she was, gifts she brought, or the light she shined.
  • Shattered glass on the second floor, shards of a dark and betrayed relationship. Two beams glow bright, the children born, and a third, the tender flame of one who left too soon.
  • Top floor, on golden shelves sit baskets, overflowed with bit and pieces, half-made Golden Giftspromises of friends and family. Those whose only real crime was that they failed themselves before they ever could fail me.
  • The ceiling above is open to the sky, dark and starry.  Constellations weave a spiderweb, a language all their own. They tell of secrets yet revealed, and assure me that … no matter how it seems, I am not alone.

Heart Stars

 

::JUMP::

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Jumping Off a Cliff

The other day, I was thinking about how love works. There are, some say, many different kinds of love. Parental or ‘paternal’ love is one. Romantic love is another. The love between friends, the love between siblings … all real, all serve to soften the edges and warm the heart as we traverse the predictably rocky path of life.

I like the way M. Scott Peck talks about it:

Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.” 

There’s a kind of love that keeps us going … in pursuit of a dream, pursuit of justice, pursuit of a passion. Sometimes even pursuit of a relationship. There’s the warmth of camaraderie between people who share interests — in music, theology, writing, art.

C.S. Lewis describes the recognition between kindred spirits:

“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” 

The backside of love is the broken heart. Love and heartbreak are two sides of the same coin. We jump off the “love cliff” and fly for awhile – months, years, decades – but eventually experience the crash of loss at the end. Sometimes it’s the soft landing of age and knowing that it’s time. Other landings are sudden, unexpected, hard. Unforseen crashes leave our heart in pieces.

Somebody said it, though I can’t remember who … one of my favorite philosophers, I’m sure. He said the beautiful heart has been softened by being broken over and over again; it has been turned to grains of sand.

I love that analogy. For a heart to be in that state, the person has chosen love every time, knowing the crash always comes.

Those who jump off that cliff again and again are valiant. And yet, what are the other options? What would life look and feel like if we stayed away from that jagged edge, safe and secure, never jumping at all?

According to C.S. Lewis, we have that choice:

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” 

So yes, to love is a choice. And yes, it is a brave choice; we step into our own vulnerability when we open ourselves to it. But, given what Lewis describes as the alternative, it’s really the only choice to make, isn’t it?

Here’s what it comes down to: it’s love that keeps us glued together inside our own skin. It’s the connective spark that pulses through us, the flame that puts the light in our eyes.  it’s the sweetness that makes everything else worth breathing for. It’s what we’re made of. And it’s the stuff of Who made us. Love and dust. So, really, what do we have to lose?

Let’s jump.

::Two Way Mirror::

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cece-and-tim-hog-posterized

These days we’re like a two way mirror.

Or through a glass, darkly.

At the grade school on Grandparents’ Day, if he shows up he is brittle and distant. He wears a starched smile, the kind that never reaches the eyes. When he looks at me, he doesn’t. Perhaps he can’t bear the reflection of himself that he sees there. Or perhaps I’m making too much of it, and he’s forgotten who I am. Like that time at the Film Festival when I saw him and called out to him. He looked at me, quizzically, then moved toward me, head shaking slowly, hand extended, with the words,

“I’m sorry, you’re going to have to help me.”

I did not take his hand. I looked at him in disbelief, and said,

“Cece.” He was embarrassed that he didn’t know who I was that day. But I realize now that he never really did.

Looking back at the years we were together, I recognize the holes he crawled through to go from our life together into his other life. I couldn’t see it at the time. The camouflage of home and family clouded my vision. But distance brings clarity. And friends who were there then have come to me from time to time since; as an act of confession? To clear their conscience as accomplices? I can’t honestly say.

While I don’t know every detail about what was going on then, I know more than I ever wanted to. Sometimes information serves no good purpose. Except, you know … it helps me realize that I was in a completely different relationship than he was. And it’s confirmed for me that he had no clue of the goodness that was present and waiting for him there. Loving him there. Knowing this is a different kind of heartbreak all by itself.

When someone becomes addicted to dancing with the dark, the light is just an irritation.

::MYSTERIES OF MAMA::

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Mama, Close Up

This picture was taken when we lived on South Madison. In it Mama is her beautiful, comical, musical self. Back then she would strike a pose, then collapse in laughter. She had flair, a free spirit,  she was my personal movie star, even before I knew what movie stars were.

I’ve gone back and looked through as many events as I can remember, trying to piece things together.

I’m searching for the turning point. To find when things changed. When the sun stopped shining, and the world went from bright colors to shades of grey.

I remember we had moved to the little house on North Marion. The one with the crayon blue linoleum floor. I remember a pivotal darkness, but nothing will speak to me from there. I try to go inside that space, but it’s always …. like the memories in it are right on the tip of my brain. I can almost see them. But not enough to grab hold, and to understand.

The things I know are that they had friends back then. At night they would get dressed up and go out together, and leave me with Ma Welp. But what else was happening?
I remember kitchen cabinets, with the doors open. Mama’s friend was rearranging. I remember Mama crying, and putting things back in the right places after the friend left. It was during that time that she stopped laughing.

I remember the priest coming. I remember feeling confused, and then it fades to black.
After whatever happened, that friend who was changing Mama’s kitchen never came over anymore.

Years later, when she was into her cups and in the mood to offer sage advice, she would say that you should never let anyone into your life because they’ll just walk in like they own the place and take over everything. Never get too close to anyone, she said. That’s the only way you can be safe, she said.

I’ve always wondered if that was the philosophy she used through the years to stay so far away from me. We’re closer now than ever before because, at 92, she has no clue who I am. It is a brokenhearted comfort that she always says she’d “love to get to know you.” I’d like to get to know you too, Mama. Or at least to understand what happened that kept us separate. But whatever it was, I loved you so; I choose to know that you loved me.I’m reminded of Birdie’s mother saying,

“All mothers love their daughters, even if they show it poorly.”

::BROKEN HEARTS ARE RED::

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GLASS HEARTWe’re living in very difficult times. We have every modern convenience,  every means of communication, yet we live lives of anguish and isolation. Our ability to communicate, and to assess the subtle nuances of truth-versus-lie is tied directly to our face to face human interaction. You’d think we’d have more of that than any generations before us. But we don’t.

Ironically, psychologists tell us that our children will have less ability than any generation in history to interact with others in healthy and meaningful ways. The reason is because they spend far more time looking at a tablet screen than they do looking into the eyes of another human being.

And I totally get that. I can’t hear someone’s vocal inflection in a text. I can’t sense their energy or see their facial expressions in an email. In my head and without realizing it  I write the story, I infuse the tone, I define the intent. That is what determines how I “hear” them. How often am I correct? How often have I gotten it wrong? I can’t know, because the moment in which it happens is gone in an instant. I’ve reacted based on “my assessment” before I even think about it.

And this, I contend, is how we have gotten so far away from each other.

Then there is the media. Do we really know what’s happening in this world? Or why? Are we given all the facts of a situation, and trusted to draw our own informed conclusions? No. There are extensive, complicated algorithms and processes that media uses to decide what we should be told, when, and how. The goal is to “drive” our opinions and conclusions; to create outrage, cause us to take sides, and define others as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on what we “know.” And the result is that we end up unable to debate or agree-to-disagree.

But … what is it that we really know?

I can’t say definitively. I’m honestly still searching, and I feel more confused than ever before.

But here are a few basic conclusions I’ve reached:

  • I know that things are happening at high levels over which I have no control.
  • I know that every story or event reported on is colored by the reporter’s bias – be it strong or subtle – so that I will believe I “know” something that may not be the whole truth or the whole picture.
  • I know that it takes deliberate and brutally honest energy to dig into the volume of information … to find those missing pieces of the puzzle that make the picture whole, and true.
  • I know that if I claim to be a seeker of truth, I have an obligation to the whole truth, regardless of what I might think about it.
  • I know that people need each other. The separation we feel is an illusion. We are connected to each other.
  • I know that we are more alike than we are different. Like flowers in a garden that thrive in the same dirt, drink the same water, and bloom under the same sun, we are a world of beautiful humanity, all created by the same God.
  • I know that hearts are broken every day in a variety of ways. But generally speaking, it’s always about loved ones lost, either through death or separation.
  • I know that when any person, anywhere, feels overcome with that loss, that it feels the same everywhere.
  • I know that all broken hearts are red.

::The Dance::

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DANCING SHADOW

He had no choice but to betray me. Did he? Did he have a choice? No. I don’t see how he could have avoided it. I was too much. I was every single thing he both loved and hated.

I am a dreamer. I was born singing, and madly in love with life. My arms are flung wide, embracing all of it.

I’ve never stopped being that person. Detours? Yes, of course. I’ve gone off on a fool’s errand more times than I can count. But I’m always guided back by the lighthouse of my heart, and the musical joy that lives there.

The perspective at my center is maddening to someone who can’t see it. Generally that’s a cynic; someone who finds their own center unloveable. They define everyone else by their  lack of personal acceptance. Cynicism runs deep, denial is creed, because if they lose a handle on the lie they’re living, if the mask slips the slightest bit, who they claim to be falls apart. It’s come to me gradually over the years that yes, he was one of those. I take no pleasure in knowing it. But it explains a lot.

Okay, so the die was cast; we were young, beautiful, and almost immediately became caught up in the dangerous dance dreamers and cynics love. Maybe that’s it.  We each fell in love with the dance itself. I’ve never really seen it that way before. It must be time.

After a few years it started to dawn on me that about half the time I was dancing alone. He partnered with me when he needed an injection of the mad love, the joy, the dream I brought to bear. Once he was filled, I depleted, he was off again, climbing his ‘success ladder’ on the energy I gave. This act of transfusion happened repeatedly, and became central to the dance itself.

Some started saying I was too open, too forgiving. Too willing to glue the shards of us back together again and again.  There were those who called me stupid; co-dependent. I was neither. I knew what I was doing. I was holding in place a life that represented everything I was born loving so madly. I did it for my children. I did it for myself. Hell, I did it for him. And no, he still doesn’t have a clue.

Three pregnancies – one miscarriage and two healthy children – were born of that union. If nothing else came of it, that is a gracious plenty. My children are beautiful, and they have at least a portion of my madness flowing through them; my eager love, my spiritual center, my excited fascination with life. The music, which always came through me, pulses in them. They are music makers because, well, I’m their Mama.

Eventually his betrayals of ‘us’ became a routine part of his dance. But my dance steps had started changing too. I was no longer able – or even willing – to hold together the shattered pieces of who we’d become. I would like to say, simply, “I walked out.” But it was more like, “My life exploded, his final betrayal was so outrageous; there was nothing left that could be saved. He made it his mission to destroy everything.”

So. There’s that. But the interesting thing is, I’ll never regret the dance. And through the years I found my way back where I started; a dreamer, madly in love with life, arms outstretched. The lighthouse of my heart guided me home. My faith, and my music, and my beautiful children keep me here.