Writers & Their Opened Hearts

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.”

much love,


[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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14 comments on “Writers & Their Opened Hearts

  1. hkleczewski says:

    I needed to read this today. I was on the receiving end of an anticlimactic break-up and I was the one that was hurt horribly. It just so happened to be when I was diagnosed with a serious illness. Since then, I’ve completely shut down, become angry, and let me health suffer more. I’ve been working on opening up my heart. I wish I had the courage you do.

    • Ollin says:

      Be patient with yourself. You’ll get there. I’m no more courageous than you. Trust me, it took a while for me to get to this point. Click on the “Man In Progress” category on my sidebar and read the posts under that category and you’ll see what I mean.

  2. Dajyf says:

    Ok,so I opened uo my heart recently, and got hurt again…I took a breath and decided that it was time to think about myself, and be a little selfish and worry only about me, myself, and I. Then again I feel the need to have someone to share the happiness, failure, in my life and I think I should open up again….I’m confused really confused…and just tired of thinking to myself…”no worries, give it some time and it will come to you” well that’s getting old really fast. Great post, thanks for the advie.

    • Ollin says:

      That’s an important and necessary phase after the end of the break up. You need to be reminded that you are completely fine and whole on your own. It’s a necessary step and a good one. Enjoy it.

  3. How insightful and how how true. And maybe being open to love will also help us as writers. I hope so–although I have to admit the inside of the shell can look awfully attractive at times!

  4. Ollin, You are wise beyond your years! The turtle metaphor is a perfect way to describe how we need to “come out of our shell so we can breathe again” after a big hurt. The hurts are all part of living. It’s how we handle it that makes a difference as you have illustrated so beautifully here. Thank you for sharing from your heart and making a difference 🙂

  5. A very wise post, and love the analogy of the turtle. The irony is, if you do not open your heart, you cannot allow love into it, and thus, we must risk getting hurt yet again, in order to love someone else.

  6. aarongraham says:

    I was never very good at the “breaking up” part of a relatioship. I never wanted to hurt anyone and I always felt bad.

  7. Tammy says:

    Ollin, I love the concept of MIP. I think that we all need to look at ourselves that way! And breaking up hurts no matter how old you are. Fortunately, I’m in a 19 year marriage and loving it.

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