Last May I attended a writing workshop in the North Cascades, and I drove the fourteen-hour roundtrip by myself. I listened to stories and podcasts, but I also allowed myself quiet time to think as I whipped across the Eastern Washington scablands, under Grand Coulee Dam, and along so many rivers. I used the voice-to-text option on my phone, and recorded hundreds of my thoughts. Some of them were specific to my memoir-in-progress, but many of them were around a common, unplanned theme:
this is what breaks my heart.
As I traveled, I felt my heart breaking open not from grief, but from immense joy, extreme delight, and uncharted expansiveness. Often when something is described as heartbreaking it’s not because of its power to destroy us, but rather because of its potential to transform us.
Break is not a simple word.
Break means to sustain an injury, separate into pieces.
Codes break, revealing secrets. Fevers break, resetting a body’s internal temperature.
A break can be as simple as a pause, or as complicated as a last act.
Some breaks can be repaired.
We break promises.
We break camp and we break bread.
We break a fall, a silence, a step.
We break each other. We break contact.
Voices break when speaking with emotion.
Weather breaks, resulting in a sudden change.
Waves break. Yolks break. News breaks.
Some things break with intention, while other breaks are followed by cursing.
We break open, break clean, break trust.
We break down.
We break up.
We break out: with hives, from prison, in song.
We break in.
We break off.
We break away.
We break free.
We break even.
We break the ice, the mold, the bank.
We give someone a break. We take a break.
My brain switched into overdrive after the workshop, and by the time I got home I had filled my phone with hundreds of notes about what I’d witnessed—both along the way and within myself—that broke my heart. The idea for this blog was born, but the following day I was rushing at work and I dropped my phone—with all of my hot-off-the-press notes—face down on a tile floor.
I broke it. The screen was shattered, and I couldn’t access anything.
I didn’t break down, but went to get a replacement, which I was due for anyway. The Verizon store offered to transfer all of my information, and many of my old notes moved to the new device, but not the most recent ones. Of course the notes containing obsolete grocery lists grapefruit, eggplant, yukon golds, toothpaste and tracking numbers for packages ordered two Christmases ago remained, but the most recent notes from leaving the conference were wiped out.
That in itself broke my heart.
Daunted, I put my new blog idea on hold, and took it as a sign to dive instead into the fire-like cycle of writing my memoir, which looks like this:
write-edit-write-edit-pout-write-edit-joy-write-edit-write-edit-doubt-write-edit-write-edit-write-edit-why the hell am I doing this-write-edit-write-edit….
I did that, and it was more fun that it seems, but one thing was missing from my writing life: the connection with readers I had when I actively posted on my first blog.
It’s been almost a year since I posted even a word on Sorry I’m Not Who You Thought I Was , and although my intention was to return to it and pick up where I left off, I decided to close that chapter and start something new. Six years is a good run for a blog, and I’m not taking it down, but just leaving it there as an artifact. Maybe I’m no longer sorry?
Instead of limiting myself to long-form essays every week or month, I’m going to post something on this theme every day. This is not a resolution, it’s a commitment. It’s an experiment.
My daily entries could be poetry or prose. They might be lists, paragraphs, single words. Sometimes I might post a song or a photo, an essay, writing that isn’t mine.
I don’t know what it’s going to look like in the end or even along the way. But nevertheless, I begin.
Here’s the link to my new blog: This is What Breaks My Heart