We've had our hearts broken as small children when your friends don't let you join them at the potato stamp table in kindergarten (this is me sharing my most vulnerable moments with you), and again as middle schoolers when your BFF tells the cute boy about that one time you picked your nose and ruins you FOREVER.
Your heart is broken again and again in high school when your One True Love turns out not to be and dumps you for the girl who snuck out of the house in the ultraminiskirt. Every disappointment grows in importance as you sense an ever closer approach to Destiny...
And then your heart break again when the Forever that was supposed to be Destiny end in abysmal disaster. Or even if you find some version of Happily Ever After, there are always the ups and downs and mini heart breaks, and the major ones. The days when some hurts feel like they are unbearable.
The more people you love, the greater your odds are, statistically speaking, to face more heartache in your life. Even the happiest of families have their dark moments. We unintentionally inflict pain on the ones we love the most because it's in those spaces that we are the most real, and the most insensitive sometimes. There is no love without hurt. It's the hurting that love causes that gives us art and music and poetry and philosophy.
Even Tim and Faith, with their decades of shining perfection in marriage, have broken each other’s hearts, I guarantee it. With an unkind word, a poor karaoke choice, or that mid 90s turtleneck trend. Even the perfect ones among us inflict a little heartache on each other now and then.
If you're not a sociopath, the question isn't IF you'll get a broken heart, the question is when, and your investment into the lives around you will be rewarded in equal amounts of heartache when those lives inevitably face hardship.
I've wrestled a lot lately with the whole idea of parenthood as something that is anything more than perpetual heartache. Since my kids were babies it feels like it's been a non-stop freight train speeding, out of control, of things that can (and often do) go wrong. It picks up speed and momentum the older they get. The momentary glimpses of triumph and joy get overshadowed by the hard things. By rejections and breakups and failures and dashed hopes. Happiness and success come at the high cost of hard work and stress and heartache.
I watch other parents and I wonder ,when they proclaim the joy of parenting, what it is I am doing wrong as I lie awake night after night and worry whether one kid's firefighting career will be ended by a knee injury and whether there is any earthly way to pay for another kid's college tuition, and just exactly how many sporting events have to be attended and how many phone bills have to be paid to ensure that I am doing my parently duty. As they become adults and make adults decisions, there is little comfort in the knowledge that I am not legally responsible for the grown-up choices they make, because it doesn't exempt me from feeling the pain of the consequences they bear. Raising kids is just an ongoing evolution of breaking hearts.
But it's worth it. Just like falling in love, knowing the life expectancy of any relationship these days is pretty pathetic, is still worth it. And you step up to bat again and again because those momentary highs are worth it, and even more, the people that you love, that you believe in, are worth it, even when they hurt you. Sure, there are limits. There's a time to pull the plug and walk away. There's even a time to disconnect the phone line and draw boundaries, but in this era of disposable everything, there are still people worth taking the hits for. There are bigger stories than the trauma of a moment.
What parenting, and love, and being related to other human beings has taught me, is that heartbreak is survivable. It can be endured again and again and again. The real tell of a human being is whether they will get back up and love again after each break. The character of a person lives in their willingness to walk headfirst into the next round of heartbreaks for the people that they love.
Even in the last few months I have felt the weight of heartache that I didn't think I could bear, and while I struggled to walk the steps of each day in the darkest moments, I knew it would not be my last time in that valley. I knew that I would run back into the fray, I would open up my barely healed heart and I would do it again, because there is no life without love.
I know each time that I feel like I can't carry another burden for one of my loved ones, somehow there's a second wind and we pick up the pieces and move on. History has taught me that I am resilient, and hopefully that resilience is something that the people I love can learn with me, as we break each others hearts again and again with the mistakes we make.
The only thing I can promise them is that I will never, ever, EVER, be caught up in a turtleneck craze, and they're always welcome at my potato stamp table.