Heartache does not discriminate. Heartache does not care if you are male. Heartache does not care if you are female. Heartache doesn’t care if you are questioning whether you’re male or female. Heartache doesn’t care if you are black, or white, or purple, or orange. She’s not worried about your age, your size, your job, or your home. She’s not concerned with your to-do list or the commitments in your calendar. Heartache does not need permission, and she certainly doesn’t need reason.
Heartache is inevitable. As sure as the moon moves the tides, as sure as the sun rises in the sky, as sure as winter comes after fall, and death waits for us all – heartache is inevitable. She will come. She already has come. You know her. Her schedule may be unpredictable, her timing may be awful, and her reasoning may seem so terribly unfair, but she will come. And she’ll morph, and change shapes, and change weight, and her appearance will always shift a bit from the last time you saw her, but she will come. She shows up early in life: as the friend who suddenly doesn’t want to sit with you on the school bus to elementary school or the kids who don’t invite you to a birthday party, and she’ll settle in to your little elementary school heart. You’ll be unfamiliar with her and she’ll hurt, but you’re young and resilient and you adapt and soon you’ll kick her out.
And she’ll show up again, and again over time. She’ll arrive in your closet as you dress yourself for a middle school dance, awkward, unsure, and hyper-aware of the haves and have-nots and where you fall on that spectrum. She’ll pop in for a quick weekend visit when you and your high school friends part for different colleges, post-graduation, and you wonder how you’ll survive without each other. Sometimes, she’ll come for no real reason. Just a drop in. She’ll nuzzle into the bed of your heart, and you’ll be left to question why this ache is there in the center of your chest. She won’t have a name during these times, and she’ll make others think there’s something wrong with you – maybe that you need help, medicine, therapy. Yes, sometimes heartache shows up with a mask on – called depression. And she won’t need a reason. And she won’t care that you’re questioning why. Why? Why? When everything around you seems so beautiful and right, why did she come now? She will do this and make others think you’re crazy. She’s mean like that.
She has repetitive forms, favorite costumes, standby themes she loves to arrive in and you’ll sometimes see her coming. Her favorite form is loss – both big and small, and some will experience her favorite form at an unfair age – before they’ve hit double digits, before they even get to grade school and onlookers will gasp in disbelief that she chose such a child to visit so soon. And some will experience her later in life, seemingly untouched and unaware that she even had a common theme until they’ve reached the point where they’ve got some gray hairs, laugh lines, and crow’s feet and those that know her well will wonder how they got so lucky to have escaped this form of her for so long. Her most used costume will always be loss: loss of a loved one, of a favorite four-legged furry family member, of the love of your life, of identity, of a job, of finances, of security, of health. Her favorite shape – loss – will be both big and small in size. She’ll knock-knock on your door as the huge weight of a diagnosis that shakes your being and rips away your health. She will arrive as the loss of a career that you’ve held for twenty years and often she’ll morph sneakily into the loss of identity. She will show up, unannounced, as the divorce that you did not see coming and her weight will be so heavy and so unbearable that you’ll wonder if heartache can kill a person – and sometimes you’ll wish that it would.
Those big times, she’ll come, and she’ll be so loud and fussy and noisy and crazy that she’ll consume you – she’ll be all you think about, all you hear, all you see, all you feel. She’ll change you forever in these heavy times, and people won’t always understand, and you’ll feel lonely and weak carrying all this heartache around. And then there’s times she’ll come in lighter weights that still sting and feel heavy depending on your past visits with her. She’ll appear in the form of the guy or girl that suddenly didn’t text back and disappears. She’ll show up as the new love that became detached and disenchanted with you while you were busy planning your next date. She’ll take the form of the distant friend that passed away too young. She’ll appear as the family member that cuts ties with you for no reason. She’ll even show up as something really good at first – something or someone that seems so right – and then her mask will fall away and you’ll see she was heartache all along. She may be lighter than the bigger forms she comes in – but she’ll still make you cry and she’ll always leave her calling card of that familiar ache deep in your chest that stays for longer than you’d like. And she’ll still make you question your sanity. And sometimes she comes as this intangible form of the loss of hope – hope for your child who didn’t make the team, or hope for the love that didn’t develop from the like, or hope for the house that fell through after inspection, or hope for the body that you could be proud of that hasn’t quite come to fruition. Her form in the loss of hope and future plans is confusing and you’ll have trouble explaining this visit to others. Heartache is maddening like that.
But one day you’ll become so familiar with her that you’ll have developed tactics to handle her surprise visits as you age, ways to soften the blow of her sudden arrival. By the time you’ve aged a bit, she will show up, and you may wave your hand at her, and refuse to let her in because you’re done with her, “no more” you’ll say. But she finds a way. She gets in through that faulty basement door, or she slips through a window that you forgot to lock last night, and she settles into your heart. She’s perceptive of the “unwant” so she’ll stay quiet for a while, and you’ll think you’ve avoided her. But you can’t. She’s like a toddler. She can only keep herself quiet and occupied for so long. And soon, just when things are getting really good in life, she’ll throw a tantrum of epic proportions. Yes, if you push heartache away, and you refuse to open the door to her, she will wait a little, busying herself with her things, reading a book, or working a crossword puzzle, but as sure as the sky is blue she will have a major meltdown and stop you dead in your tracks and her visit will be the biggest, the longest, the most drawn out, heaviest, messiest time you’ve had in your life and you will be forced to deal with her – or worse – you’ll adapt to living amidst the chaotic heartache, hardening a little more each day.
So then what? How do we deal? How do we cope? How do we let her in and look her in the eyes and offer her coffee, a nice bed, a warm shower, and a bite to eat, and then allow her to move on her way in the quickest form possible? How do we come to terms with her, so that we can be at peace with her? How do we ensure that we do not walk around through our adult lives with the fear that she is coming – adjusting plans, and forming tactics, and constructing walls, and moats, and bridges, and valleys just to avoid her visits? Because – those things – those war tactics, those battle plans, those false security systems, that FEAR – it does not work (because remember the tantrums?) And so we must. We must find a way to accept her, to befriend her, to give her a hug when she comes, to grow from her visits, to learn from her weight. How do we open our home and our hearts to her so that she moves quickly through our rooms, our cells, our muscles, our tendons, our memories, our heart?
We move. We embrace. We commit to being fearless in the face of heartache. And we don’t shy away. We move into heartache. We hug her. We hold her. We cry with her. And we dance with her. We give her a voice. We do not avoid. And we do not remain stuck or stagnant. We move. Oh – and did I mention – we move? Physically. We move. Because heartache is fussy. She’s bored. She likes to play and to laugh and to sing and to dance and she wants to move. And so move, we must. We must physically crack open the heart space, to allow space for her. We must move our body to appease her. We must dance to our own rhythm and allow her to run through our veins and slide along our tendons, and wrap around our muscles, and flit from the crown of our head to the tips of our toes, and in and out of every little cell so that she exhausts herself. We must move until she’s sleepy and uninterested and leaves to find refuge in her own home – wherever that is. And so we come to our mat. We must meet heartache face to face, eye to eye, on our mat, in our yoga practice. Heartache is not worried if you are a beginner at yoga, or a seasoned vet. So to our mat we go.
My session at the Fearless Warrior Conference will be the heart-opening, energy moving, strength building yoga that we need to shake the fear and move the heartache. It will prepare you for her visit if you’re in need of some tactics and strategies. And it will open your heart, and move you physically, if she’s currently here residing in your life, your home, your heart. My session will not discriminate – because heartache does not. My session will be for beginners and for yoga vets. It will start slow, centered around the physical heart space, and will move into a slightly quicker pace where heartache will move through you, and will end with slow movement back to the heart space where we will release her. Come to prepare. Come to move. Come to release. Come to look heartache in the eyes. Come to embrace her. Come to make her next stay shorter. Because she’s coming. She will not rest and she will not discriminate. Come to let go of the fear of her, and to embrace and open to her.
Come to be fearless in the face of heartache.
Jackie Pajan is the creator of Solshine Strands, a gemstone jewelry brand based around healing the mind, body, and soul with energy found in nature, a yoga teacher, a forever student, a constant writer, and a presenter at the 2016 Fearless Warrior Yoga Conference.