Book: The Wisdom of a Broken Heart

Earlier in the summer, late on a Friday afternoon, I received the following text message from a friend:

“Went to the library and decided it’s a self-help book weekend.  I thought you would like this quote from one, ‘the heart that is broken has been broken open’, about being open now to transformation.  Sounded interesting.”

The book she was referring to was Susan Piver’s The Wisdom of a Broken Heart, An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love.  My friend tore through the book over the weekend and then urged me to read it as well.  So, I bought myself a copy.  And I’m so glad I did.

Susan Piver offers a unique approach to dealing with a broken heart:  she suggests that one choose to view it as a gift instead of a curse.  A Buddhist, she prescribes a seven-day program of healing to be obtained through meditation, writing and reflection.  But don’t worry, she’s not all high-and-mighty about her suggestions.  Throughout the book, she humbly tells the story of her own broken heart and subsequent sobbing insanity.  She admits to her unflattering actions and emotions as a result of her heartbreak.  It’s clear that Susan’s unique perspective was arrived at by way of painful personal experience.

Susan talks about mood swings, fleeting affairs and the stories we tell ourselves to help (or hinder) the coping process.  She reminds us of the strength that can only come from an authentic state of vulnerability in which your heart may be broken over and over again.  She urges us to forgive and be grateful.  As I turned the pages, I laughed and cried.  I felt exhilarated and exhausted.  I softened and strengthened.  One of my favorite parts of the book was when she talked about the tears…

“One way to think of all these tears is as a flood of love.  Liberated from it’s object, love now flows freely, powerfully, mercilessly, as rain, as sorrow, and as longing.  …in some sense your limitations in love have been removed… 

…This is your heart.  Freed from the containment of a relationship, it roars.”

I have to agree with Susan.  In my own experience, I discovered a wondrous liberation when I surrendered to the grief brought on by my situation.  In sitting with my self, I realized that my love, kindness and compassion towards others had multiplied exponentially as a result of my pain.  This new vision has allowed me to see the humanity in everyone— even those who are supposed to be my “enemies”.  I am continuously overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for the beautiful agony which I endure(d) (am i over it yet?).

My broken-hearted friends, I hope you find the courage to gratefully embrace the “roar” within you.  And then, spend some time learning from The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.


Book: Falling Apart In One Piece

The easiest way for me to consume books is to listen to them while I’m driving my car.  That’s how I absorbed the content of Stacy Morrison’s Falling Apart In One Piece:  One Optimist’s Journey Through The Hell of Divorce.  It made my daily commute a lot more enjoyable.  And…at times… awful.

I discovered Stacy Morrison at the Start Over Smart Divorce Expo earlier this year.  After hearing her speak, I vowed to read her book.  I read a lot of nonfictional-self-help-type divorce books.  This one was autobiographical as it was Stacy’s recollection of the process she went through after her husband came home from work one day and told her he was “done”.

On one hand, audiobooks kinda suck because I can’t page through the piece, highlight my favorite parts and quote them here.  On the other hand, it was somewhat of a treat to listen to Stacy tell me her story in her own words.  As she recounted the dramatic events, I identified with her initial bewilderment coupled with her strong work ethic and drive to perform regardless of what was happening at home.  As a mother, Stacy shared her joys as well as her hardships while navigating divorce with a young child.  She talked about the struggle to reconstruct her social life, the difficulties of vacationing as a single parent and the nights she spent crying on the kitchen floor.  It was all very raw and real— no sugar-coating.

What I appreciated most was Stacy’s attitude.  Even though her world was crumbling around her, she stayed strong and true to herself and her family.  She stated early on that she didn’t want to be the one who was right, nor did she want to be the one who was wronged (love, love, love that statement!).  What she wanted was peace and understanding.  She realized that she needed to create her own story- that she and her ex had to blaze a unique path through their separation instead of getting caught in the currents of animosity born from the jagged pasts and filtered frights of so many peers.

Of course, the journey to peace and understanding is never an easy one.  As Stacy shares the highlights of her divorce, she imparts the bits of wisdom she learned along the way— little lessons such as “You Don’t Get To Know Why, But Ask Anyway”, “Grief Is Not a Mountain, It Is a River” and my personal favorite, “Anger Hides Everything You Need To Feel To Get Past The Anger” (that mouthful so simply says it all).

Through the initial shock… the uncertainties… telling the family… picking up the pieces… the leaning… the crying… the angry outbursts… the journey is unique, yet the territory is not.  The story is familiar but not boring.  And the lessons hold true regardless of the path that led to their discovery.

I’m glad I found the time to observe Stacy’s process of Falling Apart In One Piece.  Did you read it?  Did you like it?  I’m open to discussion @relativevolutions, or my Facebook Page.

The (Constant) Evolution of Me

Yesterday slept until the early afternoon and then I sat in one of my two chairs until after midnight.  I never changed out of the clothes that I slept in the night before. I didn’t shower.  I didn’t watch any television shows.  I made no use of my stereo.  In silence, I read.  I thought.  I surfed the net.  I did some research.  I was alone, with the exception of BullyGirl.  It was glorious.

Tonight I took a stroll through my local home improvement store.  I had no list, no agenda.  I wasn’t there to complete a project, I was there to jumpstart my imagination.  As I wandered through the aisles, I envisioned my kitchen with a new stove… landscaping lights in my flower beds… a fresh welcome mat in front of my door…  I felt pride in my status as a homeowner.  I felt a glimmer of hope.  I sensed the budding of opportunity and progress.  I listened to the clunking of my heels against the cement floor and was reminded that I was alone.  And it was glorious…

I feel much different than I did a few months ago.  My sleeping patterns have returned to normal.  I eat more.  I cry less.  I smile more.  I cry less (that’s worth repeating).  A couple weeks ago, I forgot about my therapy appointment until M called to see if I was coming.  That has to be a good sign.  There was a time when I eagerly counted the hours till I could sit on her couch.  I feel stronger… less sad… I feel increasingly annoyed and irritated about the events that have brought me to this point (still not gonna use the word “angry”)… And… (I’ve been waiting for this!) I also feel a little gratitude for the events that have brought me to this point.

Of course, under the surface, the pain persists.  Yet, it is with less and less frequency that I turn to that horrific week in November and wonder, “What the hell happened to my life?”  More often, I’m able to find stability in the present moment.  Indeed, there is fantastic freedom in accepting one’s lack of control.

I find *me* to be quite fascinating these days.  I like to sit back and observe myself in action:  I’ve caught myself flirting… I noticed that I frequently smile when someone asks how I’m doing… I’ve persevered through new experiences that caused initial discomfort… I was told that I’ll need to replace my furnace and I was able to laugh about it!  Quite frankly, I’m amazed…I’m impressed… and, I’m totally falling in love with myself.  (How cool is that?!?)

I’m learning.  I’m growing.  My broken heart is healing.  It’s pretty awesome.

No, I’m Still Not Angry

People often suggest that I get- and stay- pissed.  It’s a common prescription for any separation:  if you find yourself displeased, disparage until you feel dignified.

But… y’all know I don’t buy into that.  I don’t want subsist on venom.  (Wouldn’t that make me poisonous?)   My goal here is to get better, not bitter.

Of course, I do experience moments of infuriation (like that day I was crying in the bathroom at work and I had an overwhelming urge to punch the wall).  And I’ll admit that I’ve indulged in some creative (and not-so-creative) name calling.  Overall, though, I’m not mad.  More frequently I feel:

  • Sad
  • Frustrated
  • Proud
  • Guilty
  • Empathetic
  • Liberated
  • Stupid
  • Empowered
  • Smart
  • Confused
  • Compassionate
  • Lost
  • Strong
  • Incomplete
  • Independent
  • Sad (yep…this is a biggie.  worthy of being listed twice!)

Anger flirts with me.  When it shows up, it dazzles me with its promises of power and righteousness.  It whispers in my ear, “You’re correct.  You’re justified…  Now c’mon, let’s have some fun together!”  Sometimes I want to pull it close and hold on.  Yet, I know better.  I know that anger only covers up those unpleasant emotions that I don’t want to deal with.  You know the ones I’m talking about?   The ones that evoke weakness and vulnerability- several of them are listed above.  I’m also aware that the list above contains happier feelings and, if I’m patient, eventually one of them will come along.  It’s not necessary to soothe myself with negativity.  I’ve said it before:  hating isn’t healing.

In order not to attach to anger, I’ve been employing a new trick:  replace animosity with curiosity.  This is rather easy for me to do because I have an obnoxiously incessant need to ask “Why?” all the time.  So…when I feel angry, I attempt to decode the situation.  I ask “why?” … if nobody can give me an answer, I form various hypotheses (as realistic as possible, considering all aspects of the situation and the human nature of those involved).  This allows me to view the issue from a perspective of humanity and compassion rather than contempt.  Understanding makes the reality easier to accept, regardless of whether or not I like the conclusions I come to.

Has anyone else tried this?  Or another method of avoiding the Anger Trap?  Or, are you one of those who believes that “anger is a gift”?  Let me know…

The Emptiness Inside

A few weeks ago, someone suggested that I start dating.

“I can’t do that,” I insisted.

“Why not?”  

“Because,” I paused as the words made their way from my heart to my mouth, “I’m not looking to fill the hole inside me.  I am broken and I have nothing to offer another person.”

Do you think that sounds pathetic?  Like, I’m just choosing to be miserable?  I think that’s how the communication was received.

My take on it is a little different.  As I noted when I said I was going to withdraw, I realize that I’m not exactly stable at this time.  The hysterical sobbing has subsided, but I’m still spinning quite a bit.  My emotional spectrum is in full bloom and I can’t focus on serious long-term decisions.  Yesterday, and again today, I opened a packet of oatmeal and poured the contents into my cup instead of my bowl (wtf?).  The message is clear:  I need to be still, and heal…

…Not long ago, I felt happy and fulfilled in my personal life.  I had an amazing partner who was my best friend.  He had children with whom I fostered loving connections.  It took many years, but our family finally found a natural groove in which we operated rather comfortably.  We laughed, we loved, we played Scattergories…  And now?   I’m typing from one of the two chairs that I own.  I can hear the furnace humming and occasionally there’s some noise outside.  There are no jokes to laugh at, no brotherly fights to break up, no snuggles, no hugs, no Scattergories (oh, how I miss that game!).  No human greets me as I come and go… there aren’t even enough dirty dishes to warrant use of the dishwasher.  Emptiness is everywhere.

Like I said, I don’t want to simply fill the hole.  I’d prefer to, instead, heal the wound.  And we all know that wounds heal best when kept clean and provided the proper mix of protection and fresh air.  I’m striving to find that balance and I think I’m doing OK.  I can sit in the quiet for hours without feeling lonely.  I can delight in the sound of rain on the windows.  I read (check out Love, Freedom and Aloneness:  The Koan of Relationships, by Osho).  I meditate.  I ponder.  I have a rockin’ support system (thank you:  friends, family, therapist and coach!) that offers me a lifeline back to Normal when I start feeling crazy.  Sometimes, I reach out.  Sometimes, I go out.  Mostly, I try to use this time to turn inward, ask questions and confront myself.  How else can I grow from this experience?  I know it doesn’t sound like fun.  It’s not fun.  Yet, I’ve considered other options, and “learning and growing” seems to be the most logical choice to make right now.

And so, I’m finding peace in the emptiness.  I’m sitting with the uncertainty.  Through self-reflection, I’m cleaning the wound.  In silence and sobriety (for now, I refuse to dismiss genuine emotion by use of chemicals), I’m protecting what remains tender and raw.  And, as I embrace the world, a fresh air exchange is taking place in the void.  I think the only thing left to do is keep listening and wait for time to do it’s thing.

“We form clay into a pot, but it’s the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want”-Lao Tzu

Another word for “emptiness is “space, and space is a great thing to explore.  Within it, I hope to bridge the gap between “hole” and “whole” 😉