She walked out on you when you were a little girl who needed her to braid your hair because Daddy didn’t know how to do it. She didn’t mean to walk out, but the bottle made her do it, and once she did, she couldn’t look herself in the eye, so she avoided mirrors and drank more bottles. And now you’re grown and you can braid your own hair and you survived in spite of her and you’re pregnant, and she’s gonna be a grandmother, and you want her to know you turned out pretty dang good, if you do say so yourself. So you write the letter and open your heart and you tell her how it hurt when she walked away and left your little girl heart cracked wide open with no instructions for repairing it. You tell her how many times you’ve dreamed of having her rock you in her arms, even now, and how many times you’ve cried because other people got mothers who baked them cookies and kissed their boo-boos. You tell her you understand, that you’re not mad anymore, that you forgive her - really, you do. And that all you want now is for her to know how much you love her, maybe even to see her again, just for coffee or even for your baby shower. And then you wait. And wait. And wait. And it’s been weeks and she hasn’t called or written back. And your quivering open heart, exposed and vulnerable, remembers what it felt like when you were seven and you watched her go out that door, not realizing you’d never see her again. You cry like a child, and the sobs wrack you. Your heart aches so much you want to close your heart back up, sew it up with big black rope, bar the door with chain metal and armored locks, never open that heart again.
But you don’t because life is too precious.
You’ve been BFFs since you lost your first tooth. You fixed each other’s hair for prom when you both went stag, and even though you knew they might make fun of you, you danced with each other to Alphaville’s “Forever Young.” When your fiancé broke it off the day of the wedding, when you were already wearing the white dress, you sobbed in her arms, your heart open wide like a surgeon had just sawed through your ribcage. When you finally found love again, she was the maid of honor in your wedding - and you were hers. Then her husband calls you one morning at 2am and makes a pass at you. You’re shocked, appalled. Your heart is broken on behalf of your best friend. You know you must tell her. You have to tell her. So you break the news as gently and lovingly as you can. And she turns her back to you. Walks out. You call. You leave messages. You write letters. You wait. You keep your heart open. You forgive her for not calling back. You know you did the right thing. You love her like crazy. It’s been a year, and your heart hurts so much you feel like someone took out an organ and forgot to put it back. You think about closing your heart. She had her chance. You were just being a good friend. Fuck her. Fuck her. (But if your heart is closed, why are you still crying?)
You want to cut her out of your heart. Remove her like a cancer. Fill up the hole with chocolate or wine or a new pair of Manolo Blahniks.
But you don’t, because, in spite of it all, you still love her.
You didn’t mean to fall in love with him. You thought it was just a harmless crush and then it crushed you like a bulldozer. You didn’t see it coming, and if you had, you would have run far, far away because it’s an impossible love. You can’t have him. He can’t have you. Maybe it’s some crazy past life thing because your relationship makes no sense. You shouldn’t love him. You shouldn’t feel this deep soul connection with him. Plus, he’d be crazy to love you back, not that he does - or does he? You shouldn’t tell him how you feel. It would be a total disaster. What if he loves you back? (Does he?) You try to convince yourself it’s nothing. It’s just a silly crush. It will go away. You get pissed off at him when he’s sometimes there for you, then he disappears. You’re getting mixed signals. He pushes, he pulls. You’re confused. How dare he, when you care for him like this? But you’re not really mad. It’s just a defense mechanism to protect your vulnerable, fragile heart. Finally the truth washes over you and you just can’t lie to yourself anymore. You can’t keep up the act, faking it like you don’t feel it, pretending to be cool and casual, when you’re hurting. So you tell him. You bare your heart. You confess everything you’ve been holding inside. And then he is silent. He doesn’t say he loves you back. He doesn’t say he doesn’t. You wait. More silence. Is he just overwhelmed with your confession? Is he confused by his own love for you? Or is he just not that into you? Your heart is naked, open, waiting. Then there is more silence and you want to pull your heartstrings closer together. Leaving it open feels so raw, like your heart is bleeding love and you’re hemorrhaging all over the floor. You want to close it back up. Keep it safe. Never let anyone in again.
But you don’t, because love can’t get in when your heart is closed.
He shot his pregnant girlfriend, that bastard. Shot her right in the belly, right where that baby is. She’s not breathing when the ambulance brings her in. Blood is pouring out of her belly. So you do what it is you do. You put a tube into her lungs, pump air into it. You call for liters of O negative blood so you can fill her veins back up again. You call the operating room, ask them to open it stat. You give orders to the team. You check the baby’s heart beat - it’s still beating, but not fast enough. Everyone springs into action. You race her to the operating room, slicing clean through her belly, while the heart surgeon slices through her chest because there’s another bullet there. You open her uterus in one clean swipe of the scalpel, and you pull out the blue baby and hand him to the pediatricians who are waiting with the incubator. Her uterus bleeds, pouring blood. You feel a gush of love for this mother and her baby. Your heart opens. You pray. You plead. It’s not looking good. The monitor flatlines. You start to cry. The cardiac surgeon calls for drugs. Shocks. You’re trying to take out her uterus so it will stop bleeding but you can only operate so fast. The cardiac surgeon is pumping her heart in his gloved hands. Everyone is watching the monitor except you. You’re watching that blue baby, who is getting bluer. An hour passes. The cardiac surgeon should have called the code sooner, but the mother was so young nobody wants to quit. There’s blood everywhere. The operating room looks like a combat zone. Two dozen people stand there, looking at the dead mother, the dead baby. There isn’t a dry eye in the room. The cardiac surgeon and you hug, getting blood all over each other. Your heart is in his hands too, cracked wide open and bleeding. You did everything you could. He did too. And it wasn’t enough.
You want to ask the surgeon to suture you back up again, so you won’t feel so much when you lose a patient. But you know you can’t. That’s no way to live.
He left you for that woman half your age.
She up and died on you, when you’re only forty and you’ve got three kids under the age of five to raise without a mother.
He won’t call you anymore, after you breastfed him and held his hand during rehab.
He doesn’t love you anymore.
She cut you out of her will, and that’s not the worst part. She cut you out of her life.
He had sex with you right before ending your twenty year relationship.
Your dog, who is more like your child, got cancer, and you had to hold her while they injected her with the drug that made her heart still.
The hardest thing you’ll ever do is keep your heart open in the face of serial heartbreak. Closing off your heart is the easy way out. It’s an understandable defense mechanism. It makes sense. Nobody would blame you.
But it will also make you sick and suck away your joie de vivre.
Life is full of traumas to the heart. Pain is inevitable because love is everywhere, and love hurts. Period.
Love is scary as hell. Love is risky. Love is unsafe. Love isn’t for the faint of heart. Love takes courage. Love and fear can’t coexist. Love means giving people permission to break your heart - over and over and over.
As new friend and fellow Hay House author Agapi Stassinopoulos writes in Unbinding The Heart, the secret to living a joyful life full of miracles and love is to keep you heart open, even when it keeps getting hurt.
Every day is a lesson in this most important life class. Every day is a choice to keep your heart open, even when you feel it slamming shut. Every day is an opportunity to practice the art of letting your heart bleed, to cry, to feel, to ache, to gulp, to let go of your ego, to recognize that being right is overrated, to stop judging, to learn the art of forgiveness, to lay bare your soul, even when it doesn’t feel safe, to keep doing it over and over and over again until it’s like breathing.
Every day, love is a choice, and it’s yours to make.
What are you choosing?
With a cracked wide open heart,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Revolutionary, motivational 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.
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