“The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.” ~Unknown
“I'm done here. It's time for me to move on,” she spoke softly as if unsure herself. For a moment, I swore she said “I’m not done here,” but she didn’t. She was leaving me.
The poison in the words numbed my body and my soul. All of a sudden, there seemed to be a big hole where my heart used to be.
Survival mode kicked in and I started protecting that “empty” space. For me, it was isolating myself from social situations, even work. I sunk myself into spiritual reading, grasping for any words that might fill the hole.
This was the first time I had felt it. Heartbreak. This was my first experience feeling something so painful that I fell into the cycle we all do.
In Your Own Defense
That sense of an empty heart is something all of us are familiar with.
When we are hurt, we immediately want to protect ourselves. We change some behavior to act as a defense mechanism for the “next time.” These mechanisms compound to build a thicker and thicker wall “protecting” our heart.
For me, it took forever. The pain began to have breaks, yet came back with the same intensity. After more forever, the breaks became longer until the pain began to be only spikes during memories. Finally, the pain began to slowly subside in intensity.
Leaving only emptiness.
What About the Emptiness?
It turns out that emptiness is atrophy. When there is no love in the heart, it is like a precisely tuned machine with nothing to produce. It just sits there and begins to rust.
So, I, as do many of us, waited for the pain to subside behind the walls built from heartbreak. All the while, my heart sat rusting.
Hmmm. Now I’ve got a rusted heart and a bunch of walls to break through.
There’s got to be a better way…and there is.
A Different Kind of Wall
It is said that there are two ways to deal with pain. One is to shut your heart off so it won't be hurt; the other is to open it bigger to allow more love to find it.
These are odd phrases, you know? Your heart is a muscle. It has inherent strength that can be made stronger, like every other muscle, by using it.
Choose to use your heart as the wall to protect you.
Even when hurt, continue to build the heart muscle from use. Yes, it’s weakened by the sting, but it’s still capable of all the strength it had before.
A strong, loving heart is more prepared to absorb hurtful blows than weak attempts to hide it from the world. Even a broken heart continues to feed the body.
Grow your heart by learning from the pain and continuing on. Continue on as before, loving as deeply as you can. The more you love, the more strength your heart retains and builds.
Love. Learn. Love more.
Imagine your heart as a castle. When something approaches, let it in just as a castle's drawbridge lets in its guests. Let your still loving heart’s strength protect you from emotional attacks, catapulting letdowns, and poisonous relationships, like the stone walls of those castles.
You see, walls are built stone by stone. Let your stones be loving acts both given and received, instead of compounding defense mechanisms. Give and be grateful for receiving each piece of strength to your wall, knowing there’s still a drawbridge.
Un-loving Is Impossible
I loved “her” dearly, you know? No matter how much it hurt, though, I couldn’t un-know that love. The pain subsided, but the love was just as strong—just still there.
Those that I meet now that approach my castle are greeted and welcomed with the love I learned from her. Sure, some may aim to hurt, or do so unintentionally, but they have no idea the strength they’re up against.
Love after love, my heart becomes stronger. With each loss, a new layer of muscle rebuilds over the last. With a stronger a heart, a stronger love, and a new, different, more beautiful cycle is born.
So, what was the point of the defense mechanism walls? Nothing. They only served to contain, block, and otherwise stifle the beautiful strength the heart could build.
The more you compound your defenses, the more you stifle your heart. The longer you wait to love, the more your heart rusts. Conversely, the more you simply love, the stronger your heart-wall becomes and the more able you are to absorb the hurt and build again.
Crazy In Love
The pain still comes, soft and far between. My eyes still tear. But now, it’s for the memory of that time we shared, the gratitude for the biggest lesson, for the little piece of my heart that tells her it’s okay when she’s staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.
Crazy, isn’t it? I left a piece of my heart with her. My heart shouldn’t be as strong as it was, let alone stronger.
But it is, because the heart, like any other muscle, gets strong with use.
Build your heart. Love with every opportunity. Be readily prepared to open that left ventricle when the charming knight or beautiful princess arrives.
Or even the pizza guy.
Photo by nanny snowflake