Monday, August 17, 2009

Bend or Break?

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

12 comments:

Sue said...

What a lovely thoughtful post. I don't know, Lucy, either, what causes some to bend and some to snap. Maybe a whole combination of things. Maybe partially it is too many harsh words spoken and not enough ones of vision into people's lives.

I agree, bitterness is difficult. I can feel it in my own life when I forget God for too long.

SUNRISE SISTER said...

Lucy - great questions. I had to smile when I read your disclaimer because I have a post written to post tomorrow that is nothing but questions! Anyway, this bend versus break is a mystery isn't it. God's presence or an understanding of what one believes is God in their lives I think often helps those bends go deeper and farther than they ever could have on their own. It sounds like a platitude - just pray, it'll be all right. Well, just praying doesn't usually do it for me anyway. I have to work at this God and I relationship a lot, more than a lot, more than I do, but it helps in the brittle times to know there's a lifesaver out there that can just help one keep their head above water. Thank you for this post.

xoxoxoox

kigen said...

“Why are some of the sweetest and most profound moments created out of agonizing heart break?”

I shared recently on another blog that I had a painful childhood. But eventually life compensated, various events healed me and brought incredible love and stability through spirituality. Partly I sought that out, but for the most part it was like an empty gully, where the rain water simply rushes in and fills.

Hope said...

Thinking on this one. A really good post to mull over.

lucy said...

hey sue--nice to hear from you.

SS--all that bending and stretching sounds kind of like yoga or stability ball, huh? working our "God" muscles so they don't atrophy perhaps?

kigen--"part it was like an empty gully, where the rain water simply rushes in and fills." this is such lovely imagery. and here's another question...why are some washed clean by the rain water and others drown in it? neverending pondering here!!

hope--i always love seeing your name in my comment box!

peace.

kigen said...

Lucy, I know your pain, you know I do! But Jesus says it is your faith that healed you, and that's nothing but positive thinking!

lucy said...

i'm with you, kigen, but i still have to wonder why some of us choose to "think positively" and others shut down. no answers, just grace.

Sue said...

I wonder how much of it is simply bad habits learnt through trauma, for some people? Or a refusal to acknowledge that they are thinking incorrectly because of a few issues of professional victimhood that assail people in this culture?

I just think of that "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" verse of Jesus, and how AWFULLY at times difficult it is to even admit to ourselves that the problem lies with thinking crappy. Sometimes I think that the more traumatised some people have been the less able they are to admit that they are wrong.

Tess said...

I don't know the answer either. If it's choice, that implies a person strong enough to choose a response. If it's instinct, that implies nurturing. Perhaps this is where some of us simply hope for grace, and some people have no hope.

kigen said...

There is a mystery of divine Love and we are all part of it. That's positive thinking, that's my faith. But a mystery is a mystery!

lucy said...

sue--our minds are so complex. even with all of the internal work and reliance on God and and and, i still get surprised sometimes at how clueless and off-base i can be. stinkin' thinkin' keeps coming to my mind.

tess--one thing i have come to believe pretty strongly is that we ALWAYS have a choice. we don't always like the choices, but they are always there. finding the strength to make the hard ones is, well, hard.

kigen--yes, mystery. it certainly can keep us busy pondering, huh? i find, however, that i am so much more comfortable and settled with they mystery of things rather than the "certainty" i espoused for much of my life.

His Girl Friday said...

I was thinking on the same line recently, Lucy; though I feel your post did more justice to the thoughts than what I was able to bring to mind. Perhaps the lateness of the hour on my part, perhaps the depth of experience and struggle...

thank you for your words. :)