This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP (Man In Progress). After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life (one of them my romantic relationships). My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined, and in order to improve one we inevitably have to improve the other.
I’ve been on both sides of the end of a relationship. I’ve broken up with someone, and I’ve had the awkward experience of being broken up with. And I’m here to tell you that no one–no one–wants to be on either side of a break up.
I know what you’re going to say: “But you don’t understand: my ex was a cold-hearted you-know-what. You should have seen him/her. S/he didn’t even flinch when s/he ended it with me.”
Nah, that’s bogus. It hurt your ex to break with you. Trust me. Maybe not as much as it hurt you, but it did hurt. And hurt is hurt, no matter how you look at it. And your ex is probably still rattled with guilt because of it. (Unless, of course, they were wise enough to forgive themselves and move on.)
You see, our hearts are like turtles. As soon as something hurts it, our heart snaps back into its hard shell, and you don’t see it for a long time. Sometimes it’s hidden there for so long that you forget there’s something underneath that hard shell. You might even mistake it for a rock after a while.
I bet you anything an actual turtle is terrified every single time it has to poke its head back out, after hiding in its shell for some time. That turtle knows that the last time it poked its head out something almost killed it. And yet, each time that turtle almost gets killed and snaps back into its shell, it still pokes its head back out eventually. Even if, each time, it takes a little bit longer for the turtle to poke its head back out, it eventually does.
So, it’s no surprise that for those of us who’ve experienced a lot of heartbreak, we take even longer than most to get back into the dating game. Our hearts are like that turtle: its takes longer for it to poke out after every time it nearly gets eaten up.
But here’s what that same turtle can teach us: the turtle knows that poking its head out of its shell doesn’t guarantee its safety. The turtle knows that no matter how long it stays inside its shell, it will encounter the same amount of risk and danger outside, no matter how long it waits. So the turtle doesn’t poke its head out because it knows it’s finally safe. No, the reason the turtle eventually pokes its head out is simply because it needs to breathe.
We all close off our hearts after we get hurt, thinking that if we close them long enough, there will come a day when our romantic relationships will get easier to handle–and it’ll be safer to love openly. But we’re confused. Because the point of opening our hearts was never so we could live in a safer world. The point of opening our hearts is so that we could allow ourselves to finally breathe.
That’s not to say that danger is guaranteed every time we open ourselves up. No, it’s just to say that the risk of danger is guaranteed every time we open ourselves up. But I believe that taking that risk is worth it. Because with that risk also comes the possibility that something truly wonderful might happen. However, any kind of wonderful possibility is robbed from us when we remain closed off.
So, today, I open my own heart, and allow it to breathe once more. It’s been in a shell so long I’ve been mistaking it for a rock. But sure enough, now that I’ve opened it again, I find that it’s still beating, still joyful, still optimistic–still loving.
Sure, it may be a little beaten up, but the old scars have only made it wiser and stronger.
Today, I continue my journey with an open heart. I am no longer closed off to what (or who) might come along my way one day. I just take a deep breath and I say:
“Okay life, I’m ready. Your move.”
[Editor’s note: this post originally featured the song Step Inside by Sean Fournier]
Is your heart so closed off that you’re not allowing anything (or anyone) new to come into your life? Today, instead of keeping it closed up in its shell, open up your heart. Take a deep breath, and then allow whatever life has in store for you to finally come to you.
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