I’m right in the middle of reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and it is achingly beautiful and tragic and painful and funny and everything in between. Every single time I pick up this damn book there is a lump in my throat and tears well in my eyes. It undoes me. It presses a bruise inside my heart. But like a million books before this one, I wallow in it and I drink it in like a person who is dying of thirst because somehow the pain resonates. I keep reading and I almost weirdly enjoy that emotional tidal wave that threatens. This morning as I snuck in another 10 minutes of reading with my coffee and pumpernickel toast and egg whites, I had the most personally profound thought: All of these tears–these frequent tears– these tears that so closely associate with pain and loss and heartbreak–do not mean I’m broken, as I have always suspected. As I have been led to believe. As I have been told. And that I have been ashamed of. They mean I’m human. And I feel. And I have a big, warm, sometimes complicated heart . And this is not a fault. It is actually quite a beautiful thing.
Like the rest of the human race, I have known tragedy. I have known heartbreak and heartache. I have known my own personal suffering and therefore tears come easily. But I have long said to myself, and more so recently, that this was some sort of indication of my brokenness. A defect of sorts. And I have been told this, as well. And while there may be some partial truth to this- that there are broken parts of me, isn’t this also the human condition? I don’t believe this makes me unique or special in any way–but I have now come to realize-neither does it make me defective.
And in fact, could it perhaps actually be a gift? Not like in a cliche way that makes you want to slap someone who refers to suffering as gift– but could this fragile, tender-to-the-touch heart of mine be a gift for myself and the people whose paths I cross, instead of a burden to bear? Because it means when I say I feel your pain, I really do. Because sometimes I can’t help cry when a friend is crying. Because compassion and kindness and empathy are important-and it hurts when they’re not extended generously and often and without judgement or measure.
And though I do feel life deeply and cry easily, I also laugh easily. And a lot. And did I say easily and a lot? Despite the fact that one of my favorite things to do is be by myself with a book that is undoing my heart and mind (I know, I know…I sound like a real party in a box), I’m actually a truly happy and optimistic person. Is it possible that the heartache makes the happiness easier to recognize and perhaps that much sweeter? “So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” (John Chbosky) But I do know this: I’m okay with it.