The mantel above my fireplace was always off limits growing up. Crossed off by invisible caution tape that could only be seen through the eyes of a child. A row of clay storyteller dolls, made by the pueblo people of New Mexico, lined the mantel. My mother’s beloved collection.
A storyteller shattered one afternoon. The little babies broke from her back and the children, once contently listening to their mother’s story, cried to be molded back into her lap. I don’t recall how it happened. The details are irrelevant. What I can remember is the hot glue, the attempt to piece back together a part of my mother’s history, and the strange revelation that came from staring at the disfigured storyteller with globs of glue stuck in its sad cracks: Some things were never made to be broken.
We should be so careful in becoming experts of the things in life that should and should not be broken. We can be very quick to say that a promise should never be broken, and I fully agree with that. We might gesture that eggs certainly are made to be broken and that bones can take the breaks because eventually they strengthen and renew themselves. But hearts? Ah, hearts are entities that we immediately assume belong under the list of things meant never to be broken.
But then why can we hear a symphony of broken hearts that ropes around the entire world? I can imagine what it would be like to sit atop the heavens and look down on the world. One might grow numb to hearing a never ending succession of cracks and snaps, some as loud as thunder. Hearing Hearts Break And Being Helpless To The Matter.
Why, if hearts were not made to be broken, do we feel them break all the time?
I recently sat across from a friend with a broken heart. I could look directly into her eyes and see it. The pain. The sorrow. The nights and days of sadness that take their toll. And what she said to me was something more profound than anything I have heard lately. “It is good that I have this broken heart. You have had one before and I need to feel it too, so then one day I am able to teach someone about it. I will be able to say that I know how they felt.”
Broken. We never let this word hold hands with adjectives like “necessary” or, God forbid, “beautiful.” But I dare say that it can be beautiful to be broken. We might not see it at first, when our world seems hollowed out and our days long for their usual purpose, but admitting our brokenness is one of the most humane acts in this world. We open ourselves up to learning from others who have felt similar pain. We encounter strangers and new people who understand. We spend time with those who promise not to go at our hearts with a glue stick but little by little we give them permission to use pieces of tape, to begin bringing our heart back to one solid state.
Perhaps a broken heart, when put back together, will never look the same again. But what would life really be if we always walked around with the same exact heart? One that never changed, never cracked, never lost parts of itself?
It is after we have starved a little that we understand fullness in our bellies. After we have thirsted for so long do we finally understand what it means to be quenched. Only after we have missed the touch of another’s embrace for such a long time do we fully appreciate being wrapped in their arms once more. Sometimes it is after our hearts break that we understand what it really means to be whole.