About 6 months ago, one of my dear friends, and I had dinner together. We spoke about many things: finding purpose, hearing “the voice” of intuition, and the power of breakups. I was in a serious relationship at the time, and her perspective the space that heart break creates struck a chord, but far away, as if I was struggling to hear the sound but knew it to be familiar.
We sat at a vegan restaurant in Silverlake. Not particularly good, but the cozy atmosphere and the trendily dressed staff made me feel like I was in Brooklyn, my home for so long before I moved to Los Angeles. My friend went on to highlight the benefits of the tender time that follows a breakup, when a person’s main job — and in my opinion there is truly no other nobler pursuit — is to learn to tend to themselves. When half of one’s identity of self is removed, it becomes the job of the self to expand within the void, to figure out by listening inward and by trial and error what makes one feel whole again.
As I listened to her, I felt my body call forth a familiar feeling. I was reverting back to the memory of me in Brooklyn. Single, having been thrown up and down and all around by love. A city at my fingertips, and every moment of it tinged with tender intensity. When the heart breaks, it cracks open. What feels like loss is actually just expansion of space. it is not so much nothing-ness that we feel, but rather all-ness. Perspective is enriched, there is not a pretense to be found. A heart broken is exposed, and it is in its most raw form. I would argue, that it is the most beautiful.
Since that conversation, I have found myself back in that raw space. When you’re in it, it is hard to remember it’s value, and sometimes, hard to remember your own. There is space, and time, and so much tenderness. When I can remember the power of this position, it feels like alchemy. When add, into the darkness of sudden aloneness, a few other ingredients, we can can catalyze the transformation of what ancient alchemists called “the stone” (the beginning state, the starting point which in this case is heart break) into gold.
What I’m coming to find is that missing ingredient that speeds up the process of transmuting heart ache into creation is relentless self love. Radical, one might say. A conviction to self-worth and personal value that has nothing to do with another person. Attention is turned from feeding a relationship to gorging on how spectacular it is to be with the self.
By no means is the process of turning shit into fuel easy, and hardly ever ,enjoyable. However, moving through fire sparked by separation, disrupting known reality, fully experiencing the dark blanket of grief, and accepting the soured feelings that arise – in my experience vacillating between not enough-ness and arrogance – is a concoction that inevitably yields a deepened relationship with self, a widened capacity to feel fully the experience of being alive and complexity that is symptomatic of humanity.
The old platitude “better to have loved than have lost” could go a step further. If not for loved and lost, what would propel us into the exploration of the edges of sanity, feeling and imagination? What else could earthquake our life in a similar manner, ensuring that we, and our reality will not be the same?
For me, the wave-like experience - undulating between a remembered sense of unconditional love in the present moment and a free fall into crippling nostalgia - grants me the welcomed permission to pause. I place a hand on my heart. Sweetheart, it’s okay, I whisper. I say what I need to hear, even when it feels false or not immediately welcomed. And then with as much trust as I can muster, I return focus on the grand and uncontrollable vision of my life and the decision of what I want to do with all of the gold that’s emerging still from my most recent fire.