Using Heartbreak as a Compass to Find Your Purpose

Yesterday would have been my 9-year wedding anniversary. Although I’m still technically married, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll...

Using Heartbreak as a Compass to Find Your Purpose

Yesterday would have been my 9-year wedding anniversary. Although I’m still technically married, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be officially divorced. By now I’m happy to say I’m over it. I’ve gone from breaking apart, trying to scrap myself together and off the floor, to standing up and building something new. As I was going through this process, I had plenty of time to feel, go through, and think about heartbreak.

I’ve learned that it’s real. A pressing pain pushing your heart from the inside out. I’ve learned that it’s heavy. A weight you can’t ignore, and that must be carried for as long as takes. Obvious things of which I never grasped the depth until I went through them myself.

But as I was licking my wounds and healing, I learned something else about heartbreak. That’s what I want to talk about today.

Heartbreak isn’t the first place where you’d look for meaning, in fact it’s quite the opposite. When dealing with the end of a romantic relationship, or any events that breaks your heart, finding strength in that moment to give your life meaning is often the last thing on our mind. Heartbreak isn’t seen as a spark to ignite transformation, to lead to a purpose driven life. Most of us don’t want heartbreak, we don’t want grief, we do our best to avoid this type of pain. Yet, there’s Glennon Doyle Melton, telling us to allow our pain to become our power. And there’s Eckhart Tolle talking about how each disaster is also an opening. And there’s also Marianne Williamson teaching us to navigate through our suffering, not hide from it.

Glennon Doyle Melton is not your typical #1 New York Times bestselling author. For almost 20 years, she battled bulimia (from when she was eight), alcoholism and drug abuse. After she unexpectedly became pregnant, she decided to show up for herself, to stop numbing the pain she had been feeling for so long. She got her life back on track, got married and had more children. She went on to share her story and built an online community around her, but life had another punch to throw at her – in therapy, her husband confessed he’d been unfaithful for their entire marriage.

It was after this new heartbreaking moment that Glennon fully understood pain, and it all started with  a quote by Pema Chödrön from the book [amazon_textlink asin=’0007183518′ text=’When Things Fall Apart’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’mmarie-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’bbdc5bee-552d-11e8-b8da-17e608dcc280′]:

If you can sit with the hot loneliness for 1.6 seconds today when yesterday you could only sit with it for 1, then that is the journey of the warrior.

That’s when she figured out that we’re not what happens to us, but we might be what we do next; that pain is not something that needs to be fixed, but the price for love. If we manage to get ourselves to sit with our pain for a bit, we grow stronger. Heartbreak isn’t something we must avoid at all costs, heartbreak is where who we currently are becomes who the world desperately needs us to be.

Glennon realized that hitting rock bottom has its gifts, but also that not everyone is strong enough to sit with loneliness and pain. When we don’t know how to be still with it, we have to pass it on.

If instead of passing it on, we accept pain as part of life, and stop fearing it and feeling ashamed that we’re dealing with it, we’ll discover, as Marianne Williamson says, that we ‘can have a more expanded life because your heart and mind have also been expanded’. We don’t feel pain only when we’re going through something difficult or traumatizing, pain can show up when we witness injustice, read the news or even take a look around us. Glennon Doyle Melton thinks that if we find the thing that breaks our heart, we’ll find our purpose.

I so agree with this idea.

From experience I know that when something breaks my heart one way or another it matters to me, even if I don’t want to admit it. When my husband left me that’s exactly what it felt like. This was an important moment, a turning point. I had no control over the situation, but I could bring meaning to it. Being willing to step towards the pain instead of running away from it was powerful. I remembered who I am, and what I stand for. I renewed the vows I’d made to myself to live a fulfilling, joyful, courageous life. It allowed me (and still does) to move toward changing the things that cause me pain. In my life, but also in the world.

By focusing on the meaning instead of the pain, I found a deeper sense of purpose.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever had your heart broken, and how you made sense of it. If you feel like sharing, please let me know in the comments below. And if you’re currently going through a tough time, remember that you’re not alone and take a moment to watching this beautiful, inspiring speech Glennon Doyle Melton gave earlier this year.

Featured photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

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