In the time of broken hearts

Heard on the news this week: Broken heart syndrome is a real thing.

It happens after significant stressors. Too much adrenaline. The heart is weakened. It hurts.

There’s a scientific name for it: takotsubo cardiomyopathy. It derives from the Japanese word for “octopus trap,” after the shape of the left ventricle of the heart in this condition.

It is temporary. The broken heart can heal in a short time, maybe days or weeks.

It can sometimes lead to complications. Rarely death, though.

It seems to affect mostly women 50 and older.

But I wonder.

I wonder, as I regularly step in for teachers who are out.

I wonder, as I absorb laments and frustration and anger about the depth of student struggles.

I wonder, as I listen to students reading poems about tasting the salt of their tears.

I wonder, when I wake up so tired on workdays, when I have so little left to give when I get home.

And I am usually one to see the glass half full, to find the awe in each day, like…

the blue heron standing a glassy pond on the drive to work

the whorls of white smoke floating up from the chimney of a little house in the countryside, struck by the rising sun and transformed into clouds of peach-colored light

the newest photo of my three-month-old granddaughter who’s beginning to smile more and more

hearing my boy play old hymns on the baby grand piano at church with such a multitude of notes and joyful liveliness that surely, surely the angels dance

the one little bird (a cardinal?) singing for all it is worth, from the treetops

-these things strengthen my heart.

And keep it, I think, from breaking.

It is a long season, this pandemic, with its deep layers of residue.

On this day of celebrating love and hearts…I wish you healing peace for the pieces.

Photo: Broken Heart Chalk 2Retta Stephenson.CC BY 2.0

15 thoughts on “In the time of broken hearts

  1. Oh, “healing peace for the pieces.” Lovely. Along with the blue heron, the wisps of smoke and your son’s joyful music-making enticing the angels to dance. You’ve woven a beautiful picture of how complicated this time is–those layers that can cover up the beauty that’s always around us. Even in the midst of all of this muck. Thanks for this slice.

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  2. This captures it so well. I can feel your conscious work to see the beautiful. I imagine that’s what holds your heart together. I, too, love the last line to pieces! This is new meaning to the expression “holding it together” or maybe it was the original meaning.

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  3. Fran, those angels dancing to that music grabbed me and held me. Yes, I believe they do! And this:

    I wonder, when I wake up so tired on workdays, when I have so little left to give when I get home.

    Oh, boy! I’m sad we’re tired but relieved to know that others are feeling it too, that it isn’t just me coming home and letting dogs out and taking some time to recharge before dinner.

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    • Thank the Lord for dogs who are, yes, a bit of work but also infinitely recharging!! I cannot be sad or completely spent when holding our Dennis (currently sleeping in my lap after having whined incessantly to get in it).

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  4. There’s a LOT to be said here. About the broken heart – literally, metaphorically. About how it strikes mostly women. About how painful it is, but rarely fatal – as in, it’s hard, but you’ll live through it. I mean. That says everything, doesn’t it.

    And yes. We can hope that a hopeful way of being is enough to strengthen it. You know, now that I think about it, it’s kind of weird to think that building protection around our heart has had a negative connotation: walls, barriers, obstacles. Here, though, it’s a way of preserving our heart’s ability to provide love and compassion for ourselves and others.

    I’ll be thinking on this one a while, Fran…

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    • Maybe it’s more a matter of scaffolds for the heart vs. walls, barriers? Maybe buttresses?? Yeah, this can keep on going – and I so want to ponder why if affects mostly women. Something to do with the nurturing and feeling powerless, caught in the lengthy maelstrom? (Just used that word elsewhere, so it’s fresh…)

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