I had been thinking about heartbreak.
It wasn’t that I was experiencing any at that particular time, but like every who has lived a few decades, I’ve had my share of it. And I wondered — did my experience with the often excruciatingly painful reality of heartbreak influence how I moved forward in love and life?
Let me step back a bit. People experience all sorts of heartbreak that has nothing to do with romantic love. As a parent, I can’t imagine anything more painful than the loss of a child, and I have a few friends who have lost a child. That would trump any loss I have ever experienced, including the relatively recent death of both my parents, resulting in a complete split from my sister, and my beloved dog. And, at my age, I better get used to loss because it’s going to occur more frequently from here on.
But there’s something about romantic love that puts a layer of pressure on it. We’re told from when we’re little, and then grow to expect, that at some point we will find true love — the person who will “see us,” accept us as we are, make us feel needed, appreciated and truly loved. True love, the narrative goes, lasts forever.
But what if it doesn’t?
What if we have it and it goes away? What if we have it and it changes, turning into something hurtful — contempt, anger, abuse? What if we think we have found it, only to discover that it wasn’t really love after all? What if we never find it? Is the search for love different after we experience heartbreak? Does the experience of heartbreak influence the way we approach love? Do we fear getting too close? Do we change who we are to have love? Do we see heartbreak as a teacher, helping us understand ourselves, others and the world better? Does it scar as for life? Does it make us avoid love and closeness altogether?
That’s what I began thinking about.
I was further inspired by stumbling upon French conceptual artist Sophie Calle’s project “Take Care of Yourself.” When a boyfriend dumped her by email, which ended with a impersonal, “Take care of yourself,” she sent it to 107 women from all sorts of disciples, from philosophers to singers to poets to sociologists, to analyze it. Their insightful and often hilarious deconstructions became a celebrated exhibit at the Venice Biennale in 2007. Then I read about the Museum of Broken Relationships, in Zagreb, Croatia, of all places. And that’s when my friend, the amazing artist Veronica Napoles, and I decided we really need to carry the conversation further.
So we are.
We have just launched the Gravity of the Heart project. It’s a juried four-week exhibit slated for next year, but it’s also an international and ongoing conversation about heartbreak.
We’re looking for creative expressions that illustrate and speak to your personal experience with heartbreak — painting, collage, drawing, photography, sculptural and the written word.
Heartbreak is a real thing — studies indicate the stress of a breakup can cause what’s known as broken heart syndrome, or the slightly less sexy takotsubo cardiomyopathy (named unromantically after a Japanese octopus trap), which can lead to death. Despite that, most of us don’t die from heartache; in fact, we seem to be somewhat hardwired to overcome heartache.
Yes, most of us may overcome it. But how does it influence what comes next? That’s what we’d like to know. What about you?
Want to share your experiences? Go to Gravity of the Heart to learn more about how to participate in the juried art show. If you just want to have a conversation about heartbreak, please like our Facebook page and let’s go!