Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Why Hearts Break

Painting by Jack Vettriano

Painting by Jack Vettriano

The poet David Whyte wrote the words below about heartbreak in his 2015 book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. We think of heartbreak as something suffered in romance or after the death of a loved one. Whyte says it's more than that. It's the outcome of losing or departing from anything we regard with sincerity, including a life's work. And, he adds, it's how we mature.

"Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life's work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is just as much an essence and emblem of care as the spiritual athlete's quick but abstract ability to let go. Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.

Heartbreak is how we mature; yet we use the word heartbreak as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream, a child lost before their time. Heartbreak, we hope, is something we hope we can avoid; something to guard against, a chasm to be carefully looked for and then walked around; the hope is to find a way to place our feet where the elemental forces of life will keep us in the manner to which we want to be accustomed and which will keep us from the losses that all other human beings have experienced without exception since the beginning of conscious time. But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way.


Affection, Amplified

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