Being Broken Is What Makes Us Real

It could not have happened any other way.  I do not think it was meant to any other way.  My heart had to be splintered, smashed, shattered completely.  I had to have flown low and dove deep.  I had to let myself disintegrate into wounded ashes. Yes.

I had to be broken so I could meet you.  Because I didn’t learn to be myself until I was broken. Vulnerability transformed me.  It taught me who I really was.  It opened my eyes and unlocked my heart.

I had to be broken so I could meet you. Because those jagged shards became beautiful as they opened up new space in my fragile heart.  Space that was not there before.  Space I did not know about.  Space that your heart may need so it might entangle with mine.

I had to be broken so I could meet you.

And you had to be broken, too.

Because when our shattered hearts see each other for the first time, they will be wise and hope that this could be real.

We will both breath in, and by the time that inhale transforms into an exhale, I could be yours and you could be mine.

A simple transformation, a beautiful exchange.

I had to be broken so I could meet you.

Of course, I was broken all along.  I just did not always know it.

Of course, you were broken all along.  You just did not always know it.

But, it’s so lucky we were both destroyed—

Because our fragile hearts may slide perfectly together between those sharp shards.

And maybe, just maybe, fuse together with glossy golden ribbon,

Our formerly tattered hearts smile at the possibility.

I had to be broken so I could meet you.

Because being broken makes us courageous.  And I need to be brave enough to show you my flaws,

Which are actually the things you just may love the most.

And you need to be brave enough to show me your flaws, as well.

I had to be broken so I could meet you.  Because brokenness makes us real.

And, what we both want, more than anything is to be Real.

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Loving the broken…..

The word ordinary does not exist in  your vocabulary, neither does the term “ME”.  You love unconditionally, painfully so.

Every experience for yourself or others resides on an extreme.  In every day you see things that instigate so much emotion, your mood changes shades for you in the same amount of times the sky does. It bounces back and forth between streaks of blue and glimmers of yellow – but never without silver linings of glitter. Life is a giant paint array of emotions, its colors too obscure to separate.  You can find poetry in every conversation you have, sheltered amongst breaths and pauses, sideways glances, depths in eyes and tones in voices. Others may not see, hear or feel it. But you always do.

Your fingertips trace scars on lovers instead of perfect features.  And you long to know every story that comes with those scars.  You can recognize stories in the eyes of random strangers on the street because you see souls instead of irises.  Those stories speak to you, sometimes so much that you intentionally avoid eye contact at all for the emotions are just too much on those days. On other days, you brush past them wondering who they love, what they’ve lost, where they’re going and who they’re trying to be. Everyone and everything has a story and you can sense it.

Your heart bleeds at the sight of beggars because you know that somewhere under those rags they grasp a treasured item they’ve endured pangs of hunger to keep. It could be anything—a rusty old locket, an oversized coat handed down by a deceased parent, or a crumpled picture of a loved one they’ve lost.  Others may see someone just waiting on their next drink or their next fix, but you see someone who just needs a spark of hope and maybe, just maybe you can offer that up to them with a dollar or a smile or even a little more.

Children in elevators fill your heart with so much joy, you always smile just a little wider.  You always want to jump with them as it rises and love to let them push the buttons.  Children are always a ray of sunshine to you.

Oil spills in gutters look like mini rainbows. Raindrops on windshields look like fallen stars. Fizzy drinks in glasses look like the evening sea. Clouds form shapes of wonder and your imagination can write a story among them.  There is no such thing as a mundane day, and boredom is a problem you’ll never have.

You enter rooms filled with strangers and feel suffocated by the invisible sparks of electricity flickering in the air. You can pinpoint who’s fighting or flirting without knowing either party from 20 feet away. Like a wet sponge, your body has this tendency of soaking up all the energy around you. Negativity gets sucked into your pores, and affects you so much it almost always ruins your day.  Because, not caring just isn’t an option.

No one has ever done you wrong, no matter how bad the crime, without you attempting to understand why they did so. You always live with the thoughts of being responsible for your own actions, not theirs.  They have to answer for what they do and you never know what a person is holding inside that causes them to act this way.  Friends seek your solace because they know you’ll help them realize what the person they’re angry at could be going through. This makes it virtually impossible for you to detest anyone. So you end up raking yourself over coals instead for never not understanding why.

But this very trait enables you to LOVE THE BROKEN. You refuse to believe everyone isn’t good at heart even though this permanent naivety is usually what ends up stinging you.  To have the heart of an empath is both a blessing and a curse.

You have no control over the intensity of things you feel, or how other people’s feelings affect you. But empaths were born with overwhelming amounts of compassion and endless empathy for a reason. In a world where people numb their feelings and ignore chaos, empaths are there to demand that feelings be felt.

To see the beauty in the details, and in sadness, too.

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My heart is a collector…..

Some people collect diamonds, or rocks or antiques. Some fill their walls with beautiful tapestries and pieces of art; their hearts swelling with pride as their trophies sit upon shelves among swirling dust.
And then there’s me, slightly different but still a collector. I collect something more infinitely precious than anything my money could ever buy or trade – I treasure my soul mates.
I won’t love you immediately, I apologize for that. Sometimes I wish that I could, but time and experience has made me that way. Years of permanent scarring emotionally and psychologically. Most will never make it through the fortress around my heart. You wouldn’t notice it of course; you can’t miss what you’ve never had, and I don’t claim to be so important to your everyday life anyway.
My thoughts catch the sparkle of certain souls. My head tilts to the side looking at you and a smile beams across my heart as I begin to see you. And once I do love you, I will move heaven and earth to adore you, no matter what, for as long as you will let me. Few will ever know a love like it……
I will keep you safely in my heart and protect you ever so fiercely. I will accept all of you, your light and your darkness. If I feel something beautiful in you, I will long to keep you forever. This is a double edged sword of course.
“people come in to your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”
Admittedly, I’m not very good at letting go of loved ones when the time comes, even when it is best for both of us. And I understand that not everyone we meet is destined to be forever in our lives. Logically, I understand. Emotionally, it hurts like hell. Grief renders me senseless.
I will weep, and yell, and sometimes, I will behave badly. Forgive me please. Pain will do that to a person. It means that you have had such an impact on my life that I struggle to imagine what shape my life will take without you in it. It means that I struggle living in a world where we do not talk everyday, and where your smile does not light up my life on a regular basis, and where we will no longer breathe the same air. It means that I do not feel ready to say goodbye, even though it might be time.
Maybe you came to me because I was struggling, as Angels do, to share the heavy load that weighed on my heart. You wiped my tears away, softly brushed back my hair and let me know that everything would be ok…someday. And it got better.
Perhaps you came to teach me about myself, who I really am. To show me my strength. You gave me a piece of yourself to forever reflect within me and I truly love you for that.
I believe I brought something to your life too; that we changed each other in ways that can ever be undone, leaving footprints on each other’s souls to forever cherish. Yet, it appears we have taught each other all we can for the moment. We have shared our last sunset together and your laughter forever resonates in my heart.
This doesn’t mean we don’t love each other any more, far from it! In fact, I love you more and more and I love you enough that I want you to continue your journey onwards through life – to new adventures and growth, to meet new people with different lessons – knowing that you can always reach out to me with trembling hands during turbulent times or just because you miss me.
Every time we let go, space is made for new beautiful things in our life. One door closes, and another is waiting to open us to fresh new marvels, if we allow it. If we are brave enough to open it.
I am learning to hold on with gratitude to all that I learned from my soulmates, I cherish the time that we shared and to let them go their way but not in my heart if the time is right for them, without regret.
I am ok that I loved you with abandon, giving my heart fully and freely, even knowing that one day you might hurt me badly again. The fact that love is not guaranteed forever makes it all the more precious. Let’s just treasure that.

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Life in the New Year

“I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”~F. Scott Fitzgerald

And so here we go; the days before the last night of the year and my stomach is in knots, yet my heart is clear and my thoughts are like stars in the night sky.

I have always been incredibly moved by the end of the year before the start of the next; since I was young I could feel the shift in my bones. This new year, a new slate, a chance, a place to start again.

(I feel that on Mondays, too. New moons and full moons do it to me, like a force that is unstoppable —and well, each morning I open my eyes I awake with the awareness that I get to start again, today.)

But the New Year—crossing over from the last—is like finding a treasure chest full of diamonds. I carefully think through the last weeks of the year—I celebrate each day of the last weeks and the last time I will do the things I do for the entire year—thinking (wishing, hoping) that somehow, when I wake up on January 1st, my life will be different—that I will be different.

This year feels more powerful than most; I’ve been terribly sick these past months, and so rather than mark each day and celebrate parting from this year, I’ve been living in a fog world, with a collection of specialists, a whopping $50,000 spent in medical tests and bills and a terse lesson in how to simply listen to my body.  When to go and when to slow myself, when to play and when to rest.  It’s a harsh reality and one I have begrudgingly learned to accept because taking on life ferociously is my goal.

And so rest and work and rest and work and movies and food and baths and work and rest and dog snuggles and…sadness. And some happiness too.  All the things. (Life is full of all the things.)

This past year, my heart had been still broken into a thousand pieces from the year before.  I hadn’t taken my new year to start anew last year…..I was stuck in the previous year.  This past year, I learned how to speak my truth and I learned how to use my words for good and I never used them for evil.

This past year, when my foundation had crumbled, I moved into a new place in my heart with my babies and my fur babies; I learned how to let go (again and again) of what couldn’t be or what wouldn’t be—simply for the reason that they wouldn’t fit into my new space.  Letting go of these “things” led to letting go of all the other things I was holding onto—limited beliefs, fears, the-worst-things-we-can-imagine-in-the-world kind of things.

This past year, I learned that there is great strength in saying goodbye and I learned that even in the goodbye, we can love like the ocean.  Just because someone says goodbye, doesn’t mean they don’t still love you with all of their being.

This past year, I moved bodies and breath and words and I learned what it means to be loved and I found kindred spirits through the magic of it all that I will be connected to until the end of days (and even in the next life, too).

As I sit here, the weeks before the last night of the year, I am full with all of the emotions of this past year and of last year; I am humbled and grateful and sorrowful and full of love and all I’d like to do is lie down and cry, because I feel it all.

In this time, we like to say what isn’t  and what is; we like to say how silly it is to make resolutions and yet we like to reflect and declare a new thought for a new year; we throw our words around like weapons and later we remember that we weren’t kind with our thoughts. We like to have our cake and eat it too—and for all these reasons and more, it makes us all that much more human and means we should try to love each other that much more.

I believe everything we do is life; I believe that your life is different than mine and I love that it is so; I will make wishes which could be resolutions or promises or maybe even better thought of as a heart manifesto; I will use each word carefully and precisely, fueled by truth and kindness.

Moving forward, stepping over, starting fresh starts with taking a moment to acknowledge all those moments that have come before this one; who were you last year and who are you now, in this moment? What has changed—and what hasn’t? Did you learn, lose, love, fail, win? Have you lived a full life and have you treasured each moment, no matter how bright or dark you felt?

Most of all—have you lived a life you are proud of? And if not, are you willing to start again?

I bow my head—no, I drop to my knees—as I pay homage to every moment that has led me here.

As I step over into a new year, in a room full of breathing beings, hearts beating, in the quiet of that quiet that only happens in the moment between this one and the next, I will give thanks for it all.

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Love makes us real…..

Reading the children’s story this weekend about a stuffed rabbit becoming real opened my eyes to a little notion that’s been buried within.  This story has touched the hearts of many people and there is so much more to it for those of us who have lived and realized love makes us real.

The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams, is about a stuffed rabbit who is neglected, then loved and then discarded by unavoidable pains of life. But, then just before the rabbit is to be burned and destroyed, he is then made real because he has been loved.

The velveteen rabbit remained hopeful, a dreamer and sensitive to what life really is.

Even though the rabbit was so well loved that he had holes, patches and a button to replace his missing eye – the wearing out was from being thoroughly LOVED. And when it comes to intimate relationships, the trials, tribulations and shadow side of love have the most powerful opportunities to alter who a person is.

When the heart is broken, one can permanently be shattered – just like Humpty Dumpty, or we can become soft and more real, altered and not just broken.

The irony of intimate love is that the person who was once so beautiful and attractive becomes a source of pain. Yet only when we are abandoned, taken advantage of, abused, betrayed, judged, blamed and neglected do we have the opportunity to become real, to see the full scope of life and the entire depth of love.

Ideally, The person we are with will treat us with love, but in reality, most of us are still seeking and discovering what love is. People who do not know love, will not act or be loving, to others or themselves.  Every loving relationship has the full scope of life.

How people respond to painful events reveals the quality of their soul.  It is only when we are hurt, there is the potential to deepen the sensitivities and understanding of the people we love—our own self included. It is rare for a person who loves us to be deliberate in causing pain. Normally, the people who we love and hurt us do so because they are dwelling in a personal hell and cause harm unintentionally.

Often times, the pain people inflict on the ones closest to them is the exact pain they inflict on themselves internally, at the deepest levels.  People communicate who they are, from where they are at.

There is a popular ideal in today’s culture that enlightenment is some state of always being happy and content, a bubble of uplifting bliss that giggles at every instance and takes nothing personally. Fortunately, the bliss-bubbles get burst, and reality always sets in. And the deeper truths of who and what we are, and what love is, present themselves. The incomplete surface level ideals of love can mature only in the presence of pain because then we understand compassion, forgiveness, tenderness and have respect for all that life has to offer.

Many religions preach love and most people claim love, but what is Love?  The bible has a wonderful list of loving traits. Love is patient, kind, does not envy nor boast and is not prideful. Love is patient – not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. Love rejoices with truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

When we become a velveteen lover, we become real.  Just as the velveteen rabbit became real from being worn thin and discarded because of love, we also know what love is once we discover and embody loving traits. More than knowledge, love transcends thought and feeling and gives a state of understanding of oneself, others, and the world. Love gives us the ability to be real, to work with the emotional cycles of day and night and to see past superficial skin to the eternal beauty within.

Love allows us to be alive, and to endure, and be stronger for being worn thin.

Love makes us real – as love is patient, forgiving, kind, compassionate, compromising, understanding and eternal.

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The River

There’s a lie we all tell ourselves regarding our ability to cope. On a daily basis, I tell everyone around me “I am ok”. Everyone around me says the same.

I find my comforting spot next to the river. I am tied to it by both memories of beauty and of heartbreak. Sitting next to it, watching the sun or the moon shine across it brings me such peace on days when “I am ok” doesn’t even come close.

I live two and a half hours from the Mighty Mississippi. For years I wouldn’t, or couldn’t bring myself to walk next to it because of my ties to it. Now there are days I drive to it just to sit there and breathe, and then I drive back home again.

Today, I made the drive with the full intention of drowning the fingerprints left on me from a loss so deep it shattered me inside. And though I find myself clean and sober from that relationship, there are still so many things that throw me overboard from the selfless train of letting go.

I intended to toss those fingerprints in the muddy water and watch as they sank with the moon. Sink them with a chain of beads that repeated the same thing over and over again once, but was now quiet and unspoken.

But, The river wouldn’t take them, or to be honest, I couldn’t toss them. That selfless train runs on a track to nowhere and a secret wish in the heart keeps me off of it most days. I board it and then find myself jumping from it at full speed.

So, I took a step back from the river, with the fingerprints still in place under the moon. And I thanked him once again for not allowing me to toss away things I could never get back and for reminding me of the beauty I’ve grasped in this lifetime.

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A never healing loss

It’s been five years ago this week that my nephew, Robbie, lost his life to a gun shot wound in Afghanistan.  The unfairness of that in itself is enough to leave a person consistently at battle with the pros and cons of what we are doing in that part of the world.  I must say, I have never agreed with us being there, even before Robbie was stationed there.  However, I do support our troops and believe in and am thankful for what they do as our protectors of freedom.  To live a daily life of following orders that puts their own lives in harms way is as selfless an act as can be made and I am at awe and thankful for them daily.

Back to Robbie….

Robbie was one of the original three nephews I had years ago, before I had children of my own.  They were my babies.  He had the sweetest face and the squeakiest voice that could send chills up some people’s spines.  However, it was music to my ears when he would look up at me with those cheeks and freckles, always smiling and saying “aunt Rachael…..”  Needless to say, whatever it is that he was wanting at any given time, I would do it for him.  He had me wrapped around his little finger.

When he was only six his parents divorced and he and his mother, Denise, moved away.  Denise has always been my sister for all purposes.  I grew up with her in my life and though her relationship with my brother did not work out, I love her.  My whole heart believes that is between them and my relationship with her is an entirely different relationship.  Even if we had not had a good relationship, she was a beautiful mother to Robbie and he loved and adored her, and that in itself is enough for me to love her and give her respect and compassion.  I am not one to decide if you have issues with this person, you have issues with me.  We also are human and individuals and not everyone gets along.

When Robbie decided to join the Army, I do not know.  I do know it seemed to be his life long dream and what he always wanted to do.  He couldn’t wait to be in infantry and though that made my heart cringe, I am so proud of him for that desire.  I remember traveling to his boot camp graduation with my two daughters, Alli and Emily.  He was so proud and though I could still see that sweet little boy in him, he had become a strong, vibrant, young man.  When we got the word that he would be shipped over to Afghanistan, again my heart fell.  The daily fear of what could happen over there is gripping to family members.

Thankfully, just before he was shot, he joined facebook finally and we were opened to his friends and others who knew him.  He had found himself a whole “family” in his platoon members and their spouses and families.  People who knew him as “Charlton” and as a grown man in the Army – not just as my sweet little nephew.

Five years ago this week….

I remember the phone call from Denise.  She was so loving and calming when sharing the details that he’d been shot – even when her entire world was shattering with fear.  At first the information was just that he had been shot in the head and was being sent to Germany.  Thankfully our government got her to Washington D.C. and then to Germany so that she could be with him as he took his last breath on earth.  The reality was that he was already, for all medical purposes, brain dead.  He was on life support.  The kindness and compassion given to fly her over before he was removed from life support and to give her those final moments to hold her baby, I will forever be grateful for that for her.

The exact timing I am never clear of anymore, between when we got the call and when his last moments actually were and when he came home to be buried.  There was so much emotion and frustration going on at that time.  I had to let my family know here because my brother had not maintained his relationship with his son over the years, as with the rest of the family.  I was the only one who had done so.

I had tried to keep my brother up to date over the years of what was going on in Robbie’s life.  How he was doing.  I remember telling him when he was shipping off and just saying “I would hate for anything to happen to either of you and the other be left here to deal with the guilt of never initiating that ‘someday’ you keep telling me about”.  My heart was broken many times over the day Robbie died.  Broken for the loss of my precious nephew.  Broken for his  mother’s loss, he is her world.  Broken for the “someday” that had now never come for my brother and for the rest of my family.  Those are breaks that never truly heal and that leaves unspoken, unresolved feelings for a life time.

So, every year, we relive this week.  Every day he is missed.  Every day he is remembered.  Every Veteran’s day and Memorial Day and Birthday and Holiday he is honored and kind words are bestowed upon us by those who recognize the loss.  By compassion as strangers or by soldiers who knew him or by friends and family members.

God tells us there is a time and a place and a reason and a season to all things.  I believe and have faith in his plan for us all.  I am thankful for that sweet beautiful boy who blessed my life in so many ways and for the sweet melody I can still hear in my heart today with his little voice saying “Aunt Rachael”.  I am thankful for the man he became and for the heart he had and the desire he had to protect my Freedom.  I am thankful for his mother, and her husband and his little brother, who contributed to who he became more than anyone else in this world – I love you all.  I am thankful that he was blessed to die living his dream and was happy doing exactly what he’d always wanted to do.  I am thankful for his soldier family and their families who came to know and love him and for all the moments and photos and support they’ve shown and the loss they’ve felt with Robbie’s death.  He has left behind a legacy that will not be forgotten.

You are missed every day sweet boy.  In the early morning sunshine and through til the beautiful star lit sky, I can see you shining down on us.  I love you.

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