Friday, 11 November 2016

Hidden Truths of a Broken Heart

Heartbreak is a bit strange really, isn't it?

I think the thing I find the most bizarre is how thoroughly isolating it is. I suppose it makes sense. You know, that having your heart broken makes you feel more alone. As that person walks off into the distance, you're left there, lost in the middle of the road at high noon, unable to even glimpse your shadow.


But! But, I thought! This is a problem that has plagued those of us that have loved, us soft hearts, for millennia. Broken hearts have destroyed lives, futures, personalities. Broken hearts have caused ceaseless poetry. We learn about them as children; about Romeo & Juliet, about how the quiet shattering of a heart can drown out all the sounds of the world. 

So surely,  I thought, we should be united. Wouldn't this, the great upheaval of souls, that happens every day, bring us closer together? All the songs and films and poems and novels and pieces of art. The things, the objects, the words that people have poured themselves into and sent off into the world to help soothe us. Shouldn't that be a balm? Shouldn't these things form an unseen blanket that whispers: "you are not alone."?


No. It doesn't work that way.

It has slowly occurred to me, over the course of the last year, that heart break in daily life is different. The stuff you read about, that fuels art, that lights fires: that's distilled. That's a broken heart that has been felt as deeply as that person is able. They have found a way to communicate. I suppose that's kind of what I've been doing in some of my recent photographs; trying to capture some of the isolation and loneliness of being broken hearted.

This is not daily life.


Day-to-day heartache is different, which is what makes it so difficult to spot. It's overwhelming anguish resulting in a weep in the loo. It's a middle of the day nap when your body can't bear to carry you through the day any longer. It's standing in an empty room, saying out loud, "what am I doing?" It's rereading  mundane messages so often you learn them by heart. It's not art.

It's happening all around you. All the time. Your colleagues, people you walk past on the street, a stranger in your building. Their souls are being torn in two, and you have no way of knowing. & even if they tell you, try to speak this unspeakable thing, you'll never truly know.

Because that's another thing I have learned about heartbreak. It's grieving for potential.


While you can understand, intellectually, what this person is going through, even if you've felt it yourself, there's only so far empathy can take you. What I mean by "potential" is something that was invested in. The future, whether dreamt about or wholly considered. Whether just tomorrow or an eternity. Those things are buried deep inside a person.

The thing is, the loss of potential happens on all sorts of scales. Sometimes it's earth-shatteringly huge, but sometimes it's lots of tiny things that keep adding up. They stop you from piecing things back together. The end of a relationship that was going to last a lifetime. Not getting a text back. People that make sense on paper. The shock of letting your guard down. People that make sense in bed. Not getting a fair chance. Believing everything is going to work out fine.


Now, if this is you, if you're overwhelmed by the weight of a broken heart, know this: I am with you. I can't help. I can't know what you truly lost. But I can acknowledge the crushing reality of the pain you're feeling. I won't say it gets better, because you'll never believe it. Plus, I'm not sure that "better" is the right word. But you will find things to help heal you. Those things will come in different shapes and sizes. They will feel different, heal different things, maybe even things you didn't know were broken. Maybe something else will hurt you, catch you off guard, and you'll be reminded of that weight again. Maybe the end of that 6-week fling has echoes of  the end of your 6-year relationship and it all comes crashing down again.

That's okay. If you're anything like me, that's how you'll know your heart isn't actually broken.

At the end of it all, a broken heart isn't one that's felt heartbreak, it's one that can't.

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