Tagged love

jenine durland how to love elephant journal

How to Love: Have the Courage to Break Your Own Heart

Read the full article by Jenine Durland on Elephant Journal here.

Excerpt: “There are moments in life when, sitting still, you feel the whole universe flow through you, when you recognize that we are indeed oceans and rivers and the channels of starts.

You see, too, that the path to healing is an inward one, and that there is wonder and beauty and adventure there.”

Full article:

This morning as I sit with the magnitude of a romantic relationship changing course, receding and reshaping itself into what, we do not know, I’m struck mostly by how we associate our hearts with this romantic love—love for one another.

How we can feel so abandoned when we forget to feed ourselves.

In the namesake essay for her collection of amazing advice columns, “Tiny Beautiful Things”, Cheryl Strayed writes a letter to her younger self. She says:

You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.

This morning I am brave enough. Just barely.

I sit with the knowledge that this is all a part of our unfolding, of our becoming, and I smile looking at the painting he made here beside me. It is so beautiful, not so much for the art itself, but for what it represents: our ability to create beauty from a blank page.

Cheryl continues, You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.

But how we linger at every dam, each impasse and braid in the river, waiting for our lover to catch up or slow down, wondering what will be. We must let the current carry us. No one quite knows what the journey will be, only that eventually we return to where we came from. And we must sit with the discomfort, shine our light on it fully.

In her book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about soul mates:

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet because they tear down your walls and smack you awake.

But to live with you soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful.

Then Cheryl: Acceptance is a small, quiet room.

That night after we talked and cried and said words of love with our goodbyes, we went to Kirtan. The woman led the handful of us through chants with two guitars and we sat crosslegged next to one another as we made music. For the last song, the woman gathered us into a circle and asked us all to hold hands. She showed us the sidestep we’d use and how we’d spin around at each chorus. The chant was simple: “The ocean refuses no river. Hallelujah!”

There are moments in life when, sitting still, you feel the whole universe flow through you, when you recognize that we are indeed oceans and rivers and the channels of stars.

You see, too, that the path to healing is an inward one, and that there is wonder and beauty and adventure there.

Like me, you will find that there is also sadness. Sit with that too. Honor everything and open to it all. As the poet Galway Kinnell once wrote:

…angels shiver to know down here we mortals make love with our bones.

We are lucky to know pleasure and pain, to know in our bones what love feels like—to give love, to receive love, to let go of those we loveThis is what we humans do, even when it hurts, even when we’re breaking our own hearts, we must have the courage to go on, the courage to feel the love that will light our way.

Galway knows this too. He is a poet, afterall. He closes his ode to the heart and the “music of grace that we hear, sometimes, playing from the other side of happiness” with these words:

But when I hear

coming through the walls

those grace-notes…

that the two hearts drummed

out of their ribs together,

the hearts that know everything (and even

the little knowledge they can leave

stays, to be the light of this house),


then it is not so difficult

to go out, to turn and face

the spaces which gather into one sound the singing

of mortal lives, waves of spent existence

which flow toward, and toward, and on which we flow

and grow drowsy and become fearless again.


Bon voyage—may our ships be the brightest stars in the sky.


HuffPo: Healing Anxiety or a Broken Heart, the Tools are the Same


huffpo-womenwendy yalom screenshot_94Read the article on the Huffington Post here.


We are lying in savasana — corpse pose — legs splayed wide, arms flopped down, palms facing the sky, and I close my eyes. My friend is beside me; my yoga teacher has come to crouch at my head.

“Do something for me,” Pete says, pausing with his hands on my shoulders, “Do this for yourself,” and I nod, eyes still closed.

“Bring one hand to your heart and one to your belly,” and I do, slipping my left hand onto my chest and resting the thumb of my right hand in the hollow of my belly button. I take a deep breath and feel my stomach rise, willing my body to relax.

Love Poem to a Broken Body

by a beautiful, amazing woman who wishes to remain anonymous

A Love Poem

Tonight I do not remain standing. I cannot. Darkness now and I hear the train from my bedroom. It never stops, this train. I count whistles to distract from the throbbing-sawing in my head, the nausea, the exhaustion for hours and days. I’ve lost track.

Chronic migraines. The doctors have a sterile two-word name for my ailment. Three years ago they arrived. Light became too bright and burning. Sounds too loud. Pain and lab tests and pills on a swollen tongue. My nightmares feature hospital beds and bleach.

I kneel by my bed. I drop like a believer to the hardwood floor. A body can’t hold everything up, all this skin and bone and broken head.

I am solitary and bent. I wonder what will step into my body, who is this future guest if not more Pain. Breathe into a cracked skull, into millions of shards that splinter and burrow. My hands and feet must fear my head.

I have slept 14 hours and wish my face was bloody so others could see. See me walk around covered and dripping, refusing gauze. I read cancer blogs because they are well-written and real and hairless and people know. I have thick curly hair. I am ashamed.

One, two, three whistles of the train. I will wait for the night to pass.

Someone is wailing. Someone is crouched on wood, frightened and small. My terrifying, aching lullaby to myself. I will give you all my love. I will give you everything. I will hold you until you sleep.

My love, my love. You break me.


A New Beginning

By Paige Pancratz

A new beginning. What is that really? I started dating an ex lover again this past summer after being apart for 13 years. We had dated in our 20s and I was her first love. It was a brief, strong connection but ultimately I broke her heart badly. Like really badly. We happened to work the same gardening gig this past spring and there was a certain way we could share honestly about what we had learned from our most recent “failed” relationships that made me wonder, “do we have similar values?” And then there was a certain way we always ended up laughing hysterically on our ladders while trimming vines. And then there was that smile at the end of that one day and the way my body responded. And then, of course, she rides a motorcycle and took me for a ride through Garden of the Gods and it was all over. A new beginning? Not yet.

We slept together and I was gratefully reminded that she is the best kisser of all time. Things felt good. We talked a couple days later about how we both just wanted to keep things casual, that the sex is good and that’s all we’re really interested in. Let’s have a fun relationship, we decided. Perfect. I thought briefly about that Sharon Olds poem, Sex Without Love, and then I walked home excited to be connected but not totally connected.

We kept hanging out and in the next few weeks it became apparent that we were “feeling more than we expected.” Let’s talk about our feelings. So, we did. And we agreed we were falling in love. Or there was a possibility of that. Let’s start showing more of ourselves, we decided.

Then, a few months later, we broke up. I was carrying a lot of guilt from the first time we were together 13 years ago. She still carried the hurt from 13 years ago that made it hard for her to trust me. There was a lot of performing going on to prove we were more mature and well-adjusted in the world after 13 years. And then there were all the belief systems we carry around in ourselves that got really loud and defensive when we started to let each other in. We were faced with meeting ourselves where we were and it got scary. This can’t work. I’m not ready. I don’t want to be seen fully. We’re broken. I’ll decide for you that you can’t love all of me. All the stuff. The old stuff.

And then things got interesting. Thank god. Because after years and years of therapy and energy work and yoga teacher training, I was more than a little discouraged to see the same sad trajectory of another “failed” relationship. And, the usual finish/start line to this old trajectory is I arrive at 1.) I believe I’m broken and can’t be loved, and 2.) I search for someone/something new to fill that hole in me that says I’m broken. But strangely, here’s where the new beginning showed up (don’t they always show up at a perceived end?). I recognized the fear and got curious. Am I really broken? Can I really not be loved?

They say a miracle is a change in perception. (I say “they” because I can’t remember who actually said that.) And I think that is all a new beginning is, a change in perception. But how does that happen? I think you need to get really curious and be really open to letting go. Letting go of attachments to what things should look like and just show up. As you are. We know this. It seems to be in Facebook quotes a million times a day. All the pop psychology and Ted talks speak to this. So after years of hearing this advice, I tried it. I don’t think this can happen with just anyone. But I think we do know when our gut says, “try it with this one.” And maybe that’s where I’ve arrived. I finally want to be seen. I wondered if we could meet each other in our messy, scary fear of the stories we make up about ourselves that have calcified over time and look like truth. She was brave and agreed to try. Oh, shit, I thought.

And that’s where we are now. We don’t define ourselves as together. I have no idea if that’s what this is about. We only hang out periodically. We decided to shelf the sex for now (this part is difficult, but seems necessary right now). All the scaffolding I had erected to support what I thought a relationship should look like is slowly falling away. It’s weird. We agreed to one rule: she’s not allowed to show up on her motorcycle. And a few simple intentions. Let’s create a safe space to be vulnerable and show up and see what happens. Let’s let go of liking or disliking what we hear and just allow each other to speak from our hearts. Let’s admit to what hurts or feels hard and help each other understand why. We have simple therapy 101 tools like communicating with the phrases “the story I’m making up about this is” and “what I hear you saying is.” The “what the fuck is going to happen?” and “will she love this part of me?” questions aren’t going away, but, damn, they get quiet during the truth telling/seeking/remembering/supporting. And, really, isn’t this all about “do I love this part of me?” and can I do that without the scaffolding of control and reassurance and guarantee of a certain outcome? A new beginning, indeed. Happy new year!

Editor’s note: We asked Paige to share her experiences as they resonated with the Break-Up Blog. We’re so grateful to be a part of her journey.


Two Doves

By Jenny Williams

Five days we stayed at the small hotel on the lakeshore. The heat was a heavy coat we couldn’t peel, the shower a cool hand slipped beneath the collar. We stripped below the fan and sprawled across the floor: static bodies, moving air.

I wanted more and he, less; this was the line we walked, a revolving bridge that always turned us out on the same shore.


Four directions on the compass, a spinning needle. Whirl a globe and halt it with a finger; shoot an arrow at an atlas. Every “there” we’d been had traded places in my mind, a game of musical countries.

In India, we made love in the ocean and drank too much gin. In Kenya, we bought wedding bracelets made from melted bullets. In Guatemala, we lay on the wood floor of a small hotel, together. Alone.

I wanted to know: How could I show the course of love on a map? Where did we stray? Where did we converge? These were the questions of landscape that mattered; this was the topography of the heart.


Three years we were together. The month after we met, he brought me chocolate mints and performed numerical acrobatics with my name. We sprawled across the dewy grass at a concert and I said, So this is what it’s like to fall.

He said I’d grown more beautiful in the years since, but what he meant was, I am looking for reasons to love you again.


Two doves, building a nest in the rafters outside our room one morning at the small hotel on the lakeshore. I watched their meticulous partnership for hours. The male flitted from roof to lawn and back again. The female fussed and trimmed and pruned and cooed, content in her domestic world.

I tried to remember the last time I hung a picture on a wall.


One egg, speckled perfection. It appeared that evening, whole, miraculous. When I noticed them—dove, egg—she was sitting to one side of it, her tiny head cocked in astonishment, or revelation. The egg lay inches from the edge.

There was no nest. A full day’s work and nothing but a few tangled strands at the foot of the beam. Was it a flaw of the brush, a grass that wouldn’t gather? Or had the need to lay come too soon?

Muy peligroso, murmured a woman passing. Very dangerous.

I pulled him out of the room to look.

It’s sad, he said. But what can you do?


You watch. You sit. You hold vigil into the night, until the dark closes in. And at dawn when you find tiny pieces of eggshell on the floor and a glistening stickiness between, you honor the thing that almost was; you mourn the thing that never became; and you think: So this is what it’s like to fall.


Editor’s Note: We invited Jenny Williams to share a story inspired by the Break-Up Blog–we’re so grateful that she did. For more of Jenny’s beautiful writing and art visit www.jennydwilliams.com

The jungle house

Unavailable Woman

By Catherine Siskron

Note from the Editor: As an integral and steadfast part of the Break-up Blog, I asked my godmother to write the first post of the new blog on the subject of being single in your sixties. Here are her words. Thank you for sharing, Catherine.

Accompanying you for the past forty days of your blog has been a chance to revisit my younger self while remaining mostly anchored in the present. How much of my own journey can I share with you and the community of your friends? You were wondering, what it is like to be single in my sixties? Actually, except for a five-year marriage (from 20 to 25) and my sojourn as your grandfather’s consort for seven years, much of my life I lived alone, in uncommitted relationships.

So before I go on, I want to tell you how much I admire your courage, your ability to communicate so many facets of yourself, your way with words that makes everything you write accessible to the heart, mind and gut…

I feel a bit melancholy. I am not used to being open, especially in writing, beyond my journal or an occasional missive to a close friend.

I wrote a draft for this entry in a blank journal I must’ve picked up in the late 80’s and only started using last month. Every page has a quote from a woman in the arts. Today’s quote is from Margaret Atwood, “The Eskimo have fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them: there ought to be as many for love…”

Perhaps we can add “healing” as a love word since it’s a lifelong project to learn more about ourselves and others and the world we occupy. It’s about staying reasonably sane in the chaos we call life.

Back to the title of this entry, “Unavailable Woman.” Like you—actually much more than you and for much longer periods of time— I thought I made myself “available” to men. I sacrificed my own wants and needs, my own bigger, wilder self to second guess men’s needs, acquiesce to their demands, help them heal, in other words to love them into compliance.  I worked on whatever man whose potential seemed irresistible to me at the moment, to prop him up so he would someday be strong enough to fulfill my dream of being held, loved, desired, emotionally and sexually fulfilled… Not a particularly kinky fantasy, and as I read your blog, perhaps still a well-trod path to happiness that does not materialize, but nonetheless, a fantasy.

I imagined myself to be an openhearted woman who loved my men unconditionally. It seemed only fair that I would expect the same in return and this expectation was the hidden, unstated, un-negotiated price that I attached to my love.  At the time I did not realize that the very fact that I could not negotiate my wants and needs, that it felt too risky to speak my truth, made my love a heavy burden.

Looking back I can see that I was an emotionally unavailable woman who chose emotionally stunted men and the pay off was that being in such a relationship I could be the “good” one—the man was so deficient in the qualities I claimed I wanted that I did not need to examine my own deficiencies.

So what is it like to be twice your age, to be single in my 60’s? Compared to my teens, twenties, thirties, forties, it’s absolutely blissful.  I started consciously working toward healing myself in my late forties. A bit late in life, I would say. Yet the change from inner drama to a much greater sense of peace, of feeling that I have choices as to how to respond even in the heat of the moment to an event in my life, and that even if I screw up, there is usually a way to remedy the problem, is a freedom that made the years of therapy well worth the hard work.

Living alone can be lonely, but not as lonely as being in a relationship where the fire has turned to ashes. And that can happen at any age.  Being alone means being free to pursue my life unfettered. The yearning for love, for passion, for companionship is still there. But it’s a yearning, not a need. I watch married couples and can’t think of any that I would want to change places with. There are trade offs, either way. I am less hopeful than I was four years ago, when I accepted an invitation to the jungle in Yucatan to see if  A*** and I had the potential for a marriage. We didn’t. And it wasn’t the jungle that stopped me. In fact, the jungle was a big part of the attraction.

The jungle house
The jungle house

I wish we had 52 names for love. Because so many different kinds of love fill my life. The love for you, my spiritual child, whom I have known since birth and who has grown into such an amazing woman. For my family and friends, for strangers in distress, for animals and plants, for the sun and the moon, for this life, that has been so hard and so rich in experience. As I age, more and more love spirals from my heart, and the spiral grows to envelope all of existence, the entire universe with its quirks and quarks. And at the center of that universe, I find the dot that I recognize as myself, and I love myself with my own quirks and quarks, my own strivings to grow and heal, my failures and achievements.