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Follow Your (Broken) Heart

Ah, Valentine’s Day.  The time of year when Target tucks away evergreens and ornaments and douses the entire seasonal section in various shades of pink and red, and every imaginable combination of dark and milk chocolate.  I love holidays, but this one is so saccharine it makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it.  Nevertheless, as the holiday loving person who decorates for everything short of Arbor Day, I went in search of a few things to put on the mantle that would be cheerful and festive.  One of them was a wooden sign with red and pink pom poms and it said “Follow Your Heart”.  I didn’t put much thought into it, as I clicked the order button on my phone and moved on to other things demanding my attention.


The week that followed was hard in ways I hadn’t anticipated (which is how difficult weeks almost all show up— stealthily on a typical Monday afternoon).  I was reeling from the crushing feeling and ordinariness of heartbreaking moments we all experience and survive.  Coping with the sadness, I sought solace in the act of putting my house in order, opening the boxes that had just been delivered.  There it was, broken— the bright and cheerful sign had a crack right through the heart.  The universe was showing its ironic sense of humor.  I set it aside with a little more force than was necessary and proceeded to attempt to take the perpetual chaos of a household filled with kids’ projects, after-school activities, and an ungodly number of shoes (seriously, where do they all come from?)


Fueled by irritation I considered exchanging the flawed sign, but the prospect of navigating a trip to the post office that week seemed about as likely as snowfall in San Diego.  Frustration threatened to overflow into my interactions with my family, and I struggled to shove it back down.  My heart had arrived broken.  It wasn’t their fault.


In a quiet moment after kids were tucked in bed and I had a moment to feel the weight of the day, I sat down with the sign at my desk.  Almost instinctively I reached for the paints that always dwell in that sanctuary, recalling the Japanese kintsugi bowls where broken places are mended with gold.


With gold paint in hand, I set about the work of repairing the fracture and adorning it in gold paint.  The brushstrokes over the deep physical and metaphorical fracture brought a unique sense of calm.  It was genuine peace, not the forced serenity of bedtime negotiations and suspicious tooth-brushing inspections.  Nothing was masked or covered up; no clear superglue was used to feign an unbroken façade.  In the careful act of tending and repairing with gold, there emerged a profound sense of acknowledgment and healing.  The brokenness was seen honored, and ultimately transformed into a reminder of beauty and resilience.


As we approach Valentine’s Day, what if we dared to let our lives be as beautifully complicated as they are?  Imagine celebrating love while also acknowledging the places where our hearts bear cracks.  Picture sitting in a safe place, tracing the hurts you have incurred and lovingly painting them with gold- the embodiment of a process that recognizes the beauty in those places still in need of healing.  This Valentine’s Day, let us follow our broken hearts into the journey of healing and a sense of being whole, as well as what wholeness looks like.  For in the cracks, there is gold waiting to illuminate the path to resilience, self-love, and the profound beauty that emerges from mending our broken pieces.



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