Sunday, July 13, 2014

splashing in nostalgia



“...when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure.” 
 ― Jane Austen, Persuasion

I don't usually dedicate much time to dwelling on the past, because duh, it's obviously an unhealthy activity. Our call is not to be past-dwellers, but now-dwellers. The work of life is found in the present, the past is old news and, like month-old celebrity gossip updates or your Facebook newsfeed, ought not to be given undue attention.
But, the other day, I wandered back to a distance place, far back at the bottom drawer of my heart and the back shelf of my memory to the time when I experienced my first true heartbreak.
Perhaps one needs to break someone's heart once, and experience real heartbreak once in order to fully understand romance. 
Neither are experiences I would wish on anyone, but they perhaps essential building blocks to understanding the romance organ inside of humans. One cannot understand heartbreak--not really-- until you've been on either side of it. 
Because, if you've been through real heartbreak, then you know how breaking someone's heart is literally the worst thing you could do to them. So why do you persist in doing it? Because, if you've been through heartbreak, you know that it's survivable. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, etc., etc. And I don't think heartbreak ever killed anybody except the loyal dogs in books, Victorian heroines, and very holy and good people. I'm none of those things, and I assume if you're reading this you're none of those things either (because if you were a very good and holy person, you would be reading something much more edifying than my blog). So.

We've all (most of us) experienced heartache. This is different than heartbreak. Heartache is the milieu of every teenage crush ever. Heartache is when that cute boy in the play with you loves someone else, and doesn't pay you any attention except to give you the time of day in a frustratingly platonic matter. Heartache is when you bite your tongue and bury your feelings because your friend wants to date the boy you have a crush on (perspective check: you are all seventeen, and four or five years later, no one will care anymore).
Heartache is high school romances, through and through. Miles and miles of heartache, because our hearts haven't found exactly how to operate without it.
But heartbreak, heartbreak: real, deep, wait-the-world-has-stopped-spinning-I-don't-get-how-the-sun-is-still-shining heartbreak changes you. It transforms you. And you realize that in order to find happiness, maybe the best course of action is not trying to find happiness in another person.
Heartache is easy to talk about, and a brief glance at tumblr will prove that heartache is still alive in spades. Heartache is medicated through Talking About It (and chocolate. and a lot of self-pity). But heartbreak is less frequently mentioned.
For good reason.
With a healthy dose of perspective and a dash of time and space (and perhaps even an added ounce of maturity), heartache becomes something one can reminisce over with a woefully humorous air. It becomes a rather melancholy but hilarious cocktail party story. Love is a sweet thing, and heartache is just a little bittersweet. With a few skillful frills added to your story, a few wry shakes of your head, and several regretful eye-rolls, your heartache can become an entertaining little tale about your past.
But heartbreak is something that can't really be laughed at, nor really spoken of. 
For heartbreak is a violation of your vulnerability. After handing your heart to someone with no gift receipt, to have them return it to you is a grievous malfunction of intimacy.
But, just as completely knocking down a building provides you with new ground to rebuild, so heartbreak, destroying all the vestiges of your old heart, gives you grounds for a fresh start. (that sounds like a coffee commercial: "your grounds for a fresh start each morning.")
I remember looking up at the crucifix, after experiencing my first heartbreak, and realizing that here was someone who understood brokenness. Someone who would never tire (as most sane humans who surround us do), of hearing about the same hurt over and over again each day.

I looked at all those old journal entries, which really weren't morose or angsty or overdramatic, just very dry, as if I didn't even want to let my heart pour itself out a little bit, I didn't even want to trust it to the silent and patient page.
And I remembered the boy who loved me when I still didn't want to give my heart away, even to silent pages, and I wondered at how the confluence of events in all of our lives is so providentially strange and mind-boggling. Our stories are so masterfully written, that, if a human tried to author them, no one could ever believe that they are true.
What a providential mystery that the people who come into our lives and break our hearts change us in ways we could have never expected. In the end, we are grateful for them, but with a gratitude we could never have predicted.
It is mind-boggling how the intersection of human beings in our lives spins our projected trajectory all out of whack, but in a masterfully ordered way.
Being human means not being a comet, which runs its predicted course like clockwork, every sixty years or so, but rather being an asteroid, whose orbit is always being interrupted by fellow asteroids. These asteroids bump into you every which way and chip away at your jumbled asteroid exterior.
But these unfortunate collisions (which are often painful upon impact) prove serendipitous, as they form us into the lumpy little space rocks that we were always meant to be.

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