Years ago, I went to see a well-known energy medicine doctor.
I went there hoping for relief from the months-long fatigue I’d felt. He placed the palm of his hand on my upper back and held it there for a while. I heard some soft cracking sounds emanating from my spine.
He then rested his palm on my upper chest just below my neck; my body made more creeks and crackling sounds. This time, though, they were loud and were accompanied by an odd, dizzying sensation.
I assumed my head and my eyes would be treated, not my chest. I was a little confused when I left but still hopeful.
“Chelsea Morning” by Joni Mitchell was playing in the car on the drive home. Mitchell’s “Hits” album had been playing on repeat for weeks. But now the songs sounded entirely different. Her voice was sharper and clearer as if she was performing live in my car.
Even the wind vibrated and howled in a manner like never before. There was a clarity to it and a heightened sense of beauty in every swoosh. I felt within my body the resonance of the wind’s gust and each musical note. It all brought tears to my eyes. I’ve cried listening to music before, but crying at the sound of the wind seemed crazy.
My heart, the doctor explained to me, “had busted wide open.”
Oddly enough, I awoke a few mornings later with increased energy. I stopped nodding off during the day as I had been doing and completed all my work on time.
Before that experience, I used to think only love could close off our hearts. But I’ve learned that the wear and tear of life chips away at our hearts too—little by little, and piece by piece, breaking us down and squashing our light.
No doubt a devastating loss or a dramatic breakup will leave us bereft and broken, but the compilation of rejections, failures, setbacks, and little mishaps shatter our hearts into millions of pieces too.
And after we’re done sorting out the pieces, picking ourselves up, and putting our hearts back together, some may question why they’d ever want to open themselves up again as I had.
We’d rather close our hearts down and guard them against future suffering.
Our bodies tend to follow suit; we curl ourselves inward, round our shoulders forward, point our heads down, and cross our arms in front of our chests to protect our hearts.
Some of us may approach every new opportunity or situation with caution, indifference, or apathy.
Others try not to become too attached to people, too excited about possibilities, or too much of anything. After all, living heartily could backfire on them all over again.
Like me, some may resist their longings, temper their passions, and live within a paradox of wanting the richness of their full heart and refusing it at the same time.
And then we tell ourselves that this avoidant, detached, and dispirited way of being in the world is all for the better.
In an interview for GQ Magazine that centered around men and sex and why Tinder is a way for men to avoid rejection, Esther Perel, the acclaimed psychotherapist and relationship expert, spoke about avoiding heartbreak.
She said this:
“The experience of being rejected, this experience of somebody loving somebody ends. The experience of jealousy, of loneliness, these are part of the human condition. Today people want to anesthetize their life from all these experiences. They want sure bets. This is life. You’re going to be in pain, you’re going to suffer, you’re going to feel rejected, you’re going to feel loved, you’re going to feel jealous, you’re going to feel possessive, you’re going to feel generous, you’re going to feel all kinds of things. That’s the richness of our emotional lives. You’re going to cry with music. You’re going to read literature and it’s going to show you’re not the only one.”
“You’re going to cry with your friends and you’re going to realize that they have gone through some of the same things. And, gradually you learn to build resistance, to become resilient in the sense that you’re going to beat back and move forward through these experiences of life so that you’re not just a fragile creature.”
As Perel beautifully points out, life is an emotional roller coaster that must be ridden. She reminds us of our resiliency and our strength and that living open-hearted is what it means to be alive.
Our hearts are where our purest intentions and deepest desires live.
They hold love and sorrow simultaneously—ours and others’.
Our hearts pulse, pound, melt, sing, dance, laugh, and sigh with the sensations, sights, and scents of all that we adore.
The warmth from our hearts may fill another’s heart and have us heal together—and beat as one.
My heart is music, books, poetry, art, people, flowers, and the ocean air. What’s inside yours? It is only through our hearts that we may know each other.
Do you feel me?
So, why shouldn’t we wear our hearts on our sleeves, again? And why feel ashamed or a glutton for punishment for doing so?
Yes, it’s true that our hearts will crumble from disappointment, defeat, and every dream that isn’t realized and that we will spend many days saddened by our losses. But it is also true that our hearts are designed to restore themselves and that we have the opportunity to heal our wounds—again and again. And that by doing so we expand our hearts to give—and to welcome more and more love into our lives.
We can choose to place our hands on our hearts to honor them. We can unfurl our bodies, widen our shoulders, and open ourselves up to all the magic, joy, and pain that life brings us.
And we can remember, especially during heartbreak, that our hearts have the power to re-emerge: to love again, dream again, and live all over again.