Warning: Lots of questions. Few answers.
“Why are some of the sweetest and most profound moments created out of agonizing heart break?” This is a question recently posed by an amazingly resilient friend. I wonder at times why she has not broken into a million little pieces.
Our conversation and several other events led me to consider the next question(s): Why do some people rise to the challenge and become stronger, wiser and more deeply committed to life; while others break or sink into despair, pathology and bitterness? Why are some resilient and others brittle? Why can some see beauty and sweetness even in the midst of heartbreak?
This month’s Vanity Fair includes an article on Farrah Fawcett’s last years. It really, however, is an article about her surviving lover, Ryan O’Neal. The depth of pain and bitterness that comes out through O’Neal’s thinly-veiled cynicism is heartbreaking - particularly as he speaks of the addiction that tormented his family. His anger, hatred and hopelessness pointed me toward thoughts of men and women I know who battle similar challenges. The difference in response is astounding as I witness parents who keep holding hope for their children through the direst circumstances while O’Neal jokes about wishing some of his offspring had never been born. (Please do not read this as a judgment of O’Neal. I see a heartbroken man and not someone to be condemned.) It is the contrast of which I speak. Why are some people able to see through the ugliness to the inner core of beauty and others are unaware beauty might even exist?
I think of Biblical examples, like the prodigal son and the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to find the lost one. These parents keep coming back with love – again and again. They bend and stretch, and do not snap. Their resilience and flexibility surpass the rigidity that ultimately causes rupture and bitterness. Why do some rubber bands keep stretching and others snap and break?
Is it by Christ’s example of selfless love? By loving God and your neighbor (or child) as yourself? By practicing self-care? All of the above? Or is it just plain luck? Who am I to say? In my experience I have learned one pretty simple thing: if God is eased out of my equation, bitterness quickly seeps in...and the downward spiral plummets. I do not know why some rubber bands break and others stretch, but I do know: If we can’t love ourselves, we can’t love anyone else well.
"golden spiral" - bermuda 7.09