Several weeks ago, I read “25 Things People in Healthy Relationships Don’t Do.” The whole post is good, especially if you’re struggling with a relationship, but the sentence I illustrated for this post has stayed with me all these weeks, poetic, profound, and true.
Here’s the whole quote:
“[People in healthy relationships] don’t focus on the unchangeable past. Sometimes happiness in relationships amounts to making peace with something that can’t be fixed. Sometimes you let it go, and sometimes you hold it broken. It amounts to forgiveness in any case.”
I think I’m drawn to this quote because it’s untidy. It doesn’t reduce love (or the business of being human, because I think this truth applies to more than just relationships) into something more manageable than it is. Recently I was talking to one of my closest friends about platitudes, about how they aren’t so much wrong as grossly inadequate. To a large extent it’s true; we can “choose happiness,” we can “move on,” we can “be kind,” “love more,” “let go.” The reason we say these things to each other is because there is truth and wisdom in them, and they’re a kind of shorthand for all the things that are much harder and take more time to say.
They also fall woefully short as advice for someone who is heartbroken, or wounded, or lonely, or lost.
This isn’t a platitude; it’s simple, unadorned, boots-on-the-ground truth. When you’re hurting from something that happened in the past, you really do have two options: you can let it go (which is usually, let’s face it, a long, drawn-out process of letting it go and then falling into it again and again because no matter how good your intentions, letting go is hard and messy and seldom consists of a straight line right on through to Zendom), or you can hold it broken, which is all about acceptance (and also choice and grit and tenderness and resilience.)
Neither choice is easy. Or right. Or wrong.
And, honestly, there is a third option: you can rail against the unfixable thing. I do that all the time. I focus on it until I’m miserable and exhausted (as all good railers eventually are). Then, inevitably, I hold it broken for a while, because I can’t let it go, and I’m too tired to keep fighting with reality.
When I’m very lucky, after I’ve tried to let it go only to fall back into it again and again – a pattern I sometimes repeat for years before I get past it – I get to the place where I really can let it go.
And then, just like that, I’m reborn.
I have new stuff to show you!
Check out my new, illustrated fact-filled ABOUT page. Plus, I have galleries. They’re illustrated too, by virtue of their being galleries and all. And, there’s a WORK WITH ME page now, so no one will ever have to wonder again if they can, in fact, work with me; it’s right there, in black and white (and also blue, and this really cool mustard color I’m currently in love with).
I worked hard on all the new pages and to celebrate, I want to give away some original art. Leave me a comment (about my post or my site), and just before I post again on August 22nd, I’ll pick a name and give them their choice of one original from the doodles below. These were all drawn during my recent 30-day Art Challenge.