Today is Monday, February 17, 2014.
Someone posted a cartoon by Zen Pencils that hit pretty close to home the other day. Zen Pencils comic strips are illustrated by Gavin Aung Than, who adapts inspirational quotes into cartoons. There is a new strip about every week.
With apologies to the artist, I'm going to reproduce the cartoon in sections so that I can write around the panels. Hopefully, you will be able to click on each panel to enlarge it a bit, if necessary. Gavin Aung Than has done a fabulous job of illustrating a basic heartbreak scenario that most of us can relate to well enough to fill in the blanks with details from our own lives.
In the first panel, it says, "Love anything... and your heart will certainly be wrung, and possibly be broken." In this case, it's the guy who suddenly whips out a big knife, stabs the girl's heart, and stomps on it. From the guy's face, it almost seems as though he's enjoying the process, but in real life, I doubt that's the case.
I've seen and experienced a number of breakups, and it often seems that the person who initiates the breakup is angry about something. It sometimes appears to come on all of a sudden, but it's never a sudden thing. It's a process. At some point, one person in the relationship wants out, for whatever reason. The actual point of breakup often seems mocked up.
It doesn't matter whether you're leaving a relationship, a job, a business partnership, a church, a political party, or a social group. The person who leaves needs a "reason" to leave that will allow him or her to blame someone else for the breakup. The person who leaves never seems to blame him- or herself. So much easier to say, "My boss made me quit," or "My boyfriend is such a jerk," than say something like, "I wasn't right for that job," or "My boyfriend and I didn't get along." See the difference?
Anyway, the damage is done and your heart is in shreds. You know how that feels.
This is the point where lots of people start eating comfort food, smoking, drinking, or doing drugs. Others will fling themselves into their work so that they have no time for anything else. Some will take up hobbies or volunteer work for the same reason - mostly, to fill time. Some will pamper themselves endlessly so they don't have to feel sad. Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing your work well. The problem comes when you allow your work to completely crowd out your social life. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with taking up a hobby or doing volunteer work. Indeed, when you volunteer, you are focusing on the well-being of others, which can be a very good thing. The problem comes up when we do these things so that we can avoid processing our pain and letting it go.
When you've had enough of having your heart stomped on, you move to protect it. In the cartoon, the girl locks up her heart in a chest and never lets it out. "If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one," says the cartoon. "Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements."
The bottom panel says, "Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable... irredeemable..."
In the next panel, the girl meets a guy whose heart has obviously been broken, but at least he's got his heart open. She's still got hers locked up. At first, she's threatened and scared, and her face even looks a little angry. The guy perseveres and gets the girl's attention. He finally asks her to open her heart, but she refuses, afraid that her heart will be violated once again. The guy is obviously disappointed, but he probably understands, at least on some level. I can't tell you how many times this part of the story has played out in my life.
The guy finally decides that the girl just isn't ready to open her heart, so he turns to go, but at the last minute, the girl decides to give him the key to her heart... if he still wants it.
It turns out that he does, so he unlocks her heart and helps her mend it. Looks like the end of the story, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's not, because ultimately, our hearts are never mended by other people. We have to mend them ourselves. Others can help, but we have to be willing to do most of the work ourselves.
In the last panels, the guy and gal are in a relationship, but it's not all smooth sailing by any means. Every time the wind blows the girl starts to flail her arms, sure that she is about to fall. In the lower left panel, she's got her tongue sticking out, and to me, that's the indication that she's trying hard. Notice that the guy doesn't actually "save" her. He simply flies along with her. She saves herself. In other words, she does the remaining inner work of healing her heart.
In the final panel is the quote from C.S. Lewis that the artist has been illustrating: "To love at all is to be vulnerable."
Right now I'm in the process of taking my heart out of that box and dusting off the cobwebs. I'm trying to do some of the mending myself, hoping that I will find someone who is willing to assist me with this process, as I will assist him. We'll see if this happens. The worst that can happen is that I get my heart mended, right? :-)