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Permission To Break My Heart

Lissa Rankin's picture

Princesses Vivien & Siena

My five year old daughter Siena fell in love recently. It was with another girl - a five year old princess named Vivien, who lives in a castle in Chicago and is the daughter of my best friend Katsy.

Siena and Vivien have known each other since they were three months old, but they haven’t actually seen each other since. They’ve only heard stories. Siena has heard great tales of Princess Vivien, and Vivien has heard the wondrous stories of Siena and her fairy magic.

But a few weeks ago, they got to chase fairies in a zen garden, play on the beach, sleep in the same bed every night, bathe together with Roberto - the toy penguin, eat fish and chips at the English pub, watch fireworks over San Francisco on the 4th of July, listen to a dharma talk about Harold and the Purple Crayon, leave fairy notes, spend hours in a hot tub, and share other magical adventures that made them fall in love.

They were so in love that Siena pretty much ignored her Mommy and Daddy for a week. She didn’t care about morning snuggles in the bed, because she was too busy coloring with Princess Vivien. She didn’t want to be read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, because she had Princess Vivien to build puzzles instead. Mommy and Daddy were just a wee bit sad. We missed Siena, the queen of the fairies. But we didn’t tell her, because we were happy she was so in love.

Then, Princess Vivien had to go back to Chicago.

And Siena wept. Unconsolably. For hours.

She threw herself oton her bed and pointed to the trundle bed where Princess Vivien had slept, and she said, “Every time I look at her bed and she’s not there, my heart hurts.” And she wept some more.

And I started to cry too, because I am missing my friend Susan Aisha, who just died, and I am feeling the same way - that every time I look her way and she’s not there, my heart hurts.

Siena was so bereft and exhausted from a week of so much play, she fell asleep at 2:30pm and I finally woke her at 6pm, thinking she might actually sleep all night if I didn’t. After dinner, Siena said, “Mommy, it hurts so much to love Vivien that I don’t think I ever want to see her again.”

And I realized it was time for a Mommy Mojo Tip.

I said, “Let me teach you something I learned that I really want you to know. I have to give every person I love - including you - permission to break my heart.”

She looked at me askance and said, “But Mommy, I would never break your heart.”

And I said, “Ah, but you might. Without even meaning to. You could leave me, and I would cry, and I would look at your bed, and I might wish you had never slept in it because it would hurt so much that you’re not there.”

And she started to cry and said, “But I would never do that Mommy. I would never leave you. And I will always love you.”

And I said, “Yeah, that’s what the man who used to be my husband once said.” (I’d never told her I am divorced.)

Siena said, “You used to have a husband that wasn’t Daddy?” And I nodded.

“He told me he would always love me, and I opened my heart, and I gave him permission to break my heart, and then he decided he didn’t love me anymore. And then one day, I looked at his bed and he wasn’t there anymore. And I thought maybe I would never love anybody anymore and I would never open my heart again.”

“Oh no,” said Siena. “That would be horrible.”

“That’s right,” I said. “Because then I wouldn’t have opened my heart to Daddy and given him permission to break my heart. And then you wouldn’t have been born. And then I wouldn’t have given you permission to break my heart.”


Siena wiped her eyes and said, “I give you permission to break my heart.”

I said, “Me too.”

She said, “I will never leave you, not even when I’m big and I marry Princess Vivien and we have babies together. Because girls can marry girls. And boys can marry boys. And it’s okay.”

I said, “Yes, it’s okay if you want to marry a girl or a boy wants to marry a boy. But you can’t promise that you will never leave me. You never know when it’s your time to become an angel.” And then I started crying, and I told her about how my friend Susan Aisha had just died, and Siena said, “But she’s an angel now, Mommy. I just saw her flutter past in the window.”

And I told Siena how I had given my Daddy - her Papa - permission to break my heart - and when he died two weeks after she was born, he did. He cracked it WIDE OPEN and it spilled all over the floor and made me think about sewing it shut with big wire sutures that would keep it closed forever. But then I didn’t.

And I told Siena that some day, someone she loved, someone she gave permission to break her heart - like me or Daddy or Nana or our dog Grendel or Princess Vivien or her future husband - might break her heart, and she might feel just like she did now, like she didn’t want to give anyone permission to break her heart again. She might want to shut down her heart so it wouldn’t hurt like it did today. She might want to lock up that puppy forever and chain the door shut.

And she said, “No, Mama. Let me teach you a little Siena Mojo Tip. When you fall in love, you should leave a little crack in your heart, even when you feel like you should lock it. And that way, the right person can always sneak in.”

Bingo, sister.

We cried some more. She asked me to promise I would never die and that Daddy and I would never get divorced and that she could live with me forever. I told her I couldn’t make any promises, but that I would ALWAYS give her permission to break my heart, no matter what.

Then Siena said, “Mommy, will you teach me a happy Mommy Mojo Tip?” She was drawing in her fairy coloring book, so I told her she should always color and sing and dance and make salt scrubs and be creative, no matter how many babies she had or how many loves broke her heart, and she giggled and promised that she would. “That would be CRAZY if I stopped making art, Mama,” she said.

And then I held her for a long, long time, and we both cried some more. And she told me she wanted to live with me until she was a hundred, and I told her I wanted the same thing. And then we called upon fairy magic, and we found some glow sticks, and we cracked them open just like our hearts, so they shone with radiant color on a dark night. And we held them up to each other’s hearts and kissed each other three ways - Eskimo, butterfly, and lip kisses.

And right before she fell into the kind of sleep you can only have after a long cry, Siena said, “Mommy, I decided I’m going to give Princess Vivien permission to break my heart. So she can come back again.”

And I said, “I think that’s a good plan.”

And we spun the dream catcher, and turned the lights out.

What About You?

Do you give people permission to break your heart? Or do you build moats and erect walls so you don’t get hurt the way only a five year old can get hurt?

Cracked wide open,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.comPink Medicine Revolutionarymotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.



Lissa Rankin's picture

Heal gently, Rochelle

Thank you love. And may you have peace in your heart as it heals.
With hugs

Rochelle's picture

perfect and elegant timing

divine guidance brought me to this post tonight as I am healing from a break up, home on a Saturday night to heal, to be cozy. this story inspired me to my core and reminded me that sometimes our hearts have to break so they can open. thank you for the light you shine into the world and how generously you share your blessings with the world. i am so grateful for you and for this post tonight. xo

Michelle's picture

This is so sweet and brings back memories

This is a wonderful thing. I remember when my daughter Kaytie told me she wanted to live with me forever. Also she had a friend move away and she was sad for awhile. We would keep in touch with letters and calling.
That was a wonderful thing you told your daughter about giving her permission to break your heart.

I am not a person to build a moat I do let others in again. It is the only way to move forward and learn and live life. Life does go on until it is your time to go.

Thank you for starting this site and blog, i really love it.

Michelle Hill

Beryl's picture

Still thinking about your words to siena

Gosh, it's been a good two days since I first read your heartfelt words to Siena. I keep going back to your words, and I can't tell you how helpful and life changing your words have been for me.

You hit so many high notes; notes that have been breaking my heart, but that I have been unable to heal because I had no words to describe, much less, understand the extent of my decades worth of heartbreak.

I am so grateful to you for sharing what you have, and for helping me find just the right words and experiences to name what ails my heart, my soul, and my painful relationships.

When I start to feel bereft about friends and family I have lost, I turn to your words for comfort and for a compass. Your prescient and moving words are better than any medicine I have ever tried, or can ever imagine trying.

Thank you again for exploring and sharing such life affirming and moving themes, Lissa. Your generosity of heart and spirit is so appreciated.

I can totally see why you have needed to explore venues other than private practice and hospital based work.
I think your gifts as a healer would be squandered in those traditional physician work settings, and I admire your courage in finding less confining platforms for sharing your gifts on a much grander scale. I am excited for you, and can't wait to see where your journey takes you. God bless....


Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you Beryl

I'm so glad this piece touched your heart. It just kinda came pouring out...

With love and a cracked wide open heart

Beryl's picture

Please illustrate and Publish this brilliant and healing post

I am printing your sage and beautiful gift to Sienna, and laminating your words so I can carry your soulful literary balm with me at all times.

I may be pushing 50, but I really really needed to be a fly on yours and Siena's wall tonight, reading and re-reading every last exchange you had with your beloved little princess....you hit a home run on this one Lissa, and I can't wait to read more of your writing in this literary genre.

Thank you so much....I will treasure your words and heartfelt wisdom forever.

Anonymous's picture

Right there with you!

This is perfect timing as I'm currently in the spot where my heart feels like it's spilling out all over the floor. Yesterday my plan was to try to sew it shut so that not one more friend or family could rip my heart to shreds but I need love too much to even be able to protect myself like that. I give permission people to break my heart, I wish they would just stop taking me up on it. Great post, great timing, you girls are lucky to have each other!

littlephoenix's picture

Oh, my...

Thank you for this beautiful, beautiful post. Tears are pouring down my face.

I know there's much more to the post than this part, but it touches my heart so much to know that you are raising your daughter to know that it is okay for people to fall in love with someone of the same sex/gender. I am either bi or lesbian (honestly still searching) and only admitted it to myself a few years ago. It's been kinda hard, as my dad has made homophobic comments in the past, like calling the people at the pride parade he saw on the news "a bunch of sickos" and telling my brother it's wrong for 2 boys to kiss... I do think my dad is getting somewhat better, though I'm still not out to either him or my mom.

Again, thank you so much for this post.

Patty's picture

It's not even 10am....

and I'm already bawling! What a sweet sweet story. Makes me wish my kids were 5 again and I could share those kinds of moments still. 13, 14, and 15 now. I don't think they'd put up with that for longer than 10 seconds, but they all know they can break my heart anytime! Thank you for sharing!

Andrew Kincaid's picture

Great Post!

This post was great! Very well put...I never thought of saying things quite like you did here, but it makes a lot of sense.

I have one thing to add, and this is more in the realm of dating/romance. It's implied in your post of course, but I think that people need to be a bit more selective in who they allow permission to break their heart.

I see a lot of young men and women who have become calloused and cynical because they will allow just anyone permission to break their heart. They do so because they haven't found that fount of peace that dwells inside all of us (no matter how often I tell my friends about it, they don't believe me, not that I expected them to in all honesty.) And so their hearts are broken time and again.

Brittany's picture

Lissa, This was wonderful.


This was wonderful. I'm still dealing with the death of my best friend, who died two years ago in a car accident. We were on the outs at the time, and I've never forgiven myself for not repairing the breaks before it was too late.

She was/still is the only person I could truly be myself with. We had been best friends since the fourth grade--a lifelong friendship. There is no one else that I have ever truly opened myself up to 100%, because I'm afraid they will leave if they knew the real me. I allow others to see pieces, but not the whole. There's just too much at risk.

Hopefully soon I can become like Siena and give another friend permission to break my heart.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Oh Carz

I'm hoping and praying that one day you let a few more special people break through those walls. And maybe some day you will realize that you don't need them after all. While they may protect you from feeling hurt, they also prevent you from experiencing true love in all of your relationships.

But you know this.
So I'm am venturing beyond those walls to see if you'll let me in so I can give you a great big hug (((((((((((((Carz)))))))))))))

It's safe. I swear.
With love

Carz's picture


Lissa, you have managed to write something that has absolutely knocked my internal sense of stability off its rails. I have been sitting in front of my computer for nearly two hours trying to find the words to respond.

When I was in second grade I had a best friend, Michelle. We spent a lot of time together, both at school and outside of it. I would have been six or seven. One day she announced she was moving. On her last day at school we clung to each other, crying inconsolably (I haven't even thought about this for years. I have tears trickling down my face as I remember how much it hurt). We did ring each other a couple of times after she moved but essentially the friendship was over.

Then at the end of fifth grade my oldest friend moved away. She had been accepted at a selective high school and her parents were moving closer to that school. We were ten and neither of us took the impending separation well.I was angry that my parents would not give me the same educational opportunity, refusing to even let me sit the entrance exam. My friend used it as an opportunity to knock me off my academic pedestal, a place I had sat comfortably for all my years at primary school. By the end of the year the friendship was essentially over and six months later we hated each other.

The next summer I was molested by a distant family member, something I never spoke about until I was an adult.

By the time I started high school I had closed my heart to my peers. It hurt too much when they left and I couldn't do it again. I tried to make friends with adults but that didn't work either. They had different ways to hurt me. The walls around my heart were ten foot thick. The only gaps I left were for the children I cared for when babysitting; children that, to this day, I call my kids.

I have had all of my grandparents die. My mother had a heart attack at home and I worked on her until the ambulance arrived, and was there in the hospital when she died the next day. I have been sexually assaulted by a person I thought was a friend, and betrayed, in relation to that, by another friend. And I lived for years in an emotionally and sexually abusive marriage. I let none of it through that wall. It all hurt but I rarely let that show. Even in therapy I held firm that these things happened, there was nothing I could do about it, why let it hurt? Intellectually I know that I have been through a lot of emotional trauma, and I have come a long way in accepting it emotionally. But I know the wall is still there. My kids have breached it but very few others.

Lissa, your post makes such an important point about the need to let ourselves be vulnerable. But after all these years I don't know that I can ever find that place again. I just hope that my kids can grow up without that wall around their hearts.

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