This heart is mine and it is still all in

Five months ago, a man I loved for more than 7 years left very suddenly to be with another woman. He quite literally packed his bags and walked away and has not spoken to me since.

I’ve found the process of grief is fascinating (when I can be objective enough to see it from afar). The emotions are so incredibly deep – it feels like a tsunami “storm” – unimaginably big waves building energy, breaking on the shore, engulfing entire cities, drowning every living being in sight. Then the peace between the waves. Then another coming in…

A week ago, while riding the stillness between the waves, I was cleaning out the garage (which was one of his special “man caves”) and upon opening a box of my keepsakes, I found a necklace he gave me when we first started dating and another gift from him – a lepidolite heart.

When we started dating, 7 ½ years ago, he was very, very young – and 9 years my junior. I was so determined to keep myself from falling for him, not wanting to be foolish, not wanting to invite in another broken heart. But if you’ve ever fallen for a younger man…well, then you know how hard it is to resist that innocent, clumsy, flailing love they have to offer. They’re like puppies – so desperate for attention, so adoring.

At some point, my logical mind lost control and I felt powerless to resist our attraction. In my journal, I wrote, “Like magnets, we are drawn together, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” For weeks, I was terrified that I had made a bad decision – that he would ultimately let me down. I guarded my heart fiercely, trying to balance the opposing forces of the attraction pulling me toward him and the fear pressing me away from him.

Finally, I realized that if I wanted to experience anything of value, if I wanted to meet this experience head-on, I had to go all in. After all, you can’t expect the best if you won’t give your best.

So one day, I wrapped a rose quartz heart in a jewelry box, tied it with a bow and attached a card to it. It read, “This is my heart. And it is all yours. I am in this, totally and completely.”

He told me he had cried when he read the note and slept with the heart underneath his pillow. A week later, I found a similar box on my bed. Inside was a lepidolite heart, just like the one I had given him. His note read, simply: “My heart + your love = forever.”

The funny thing was, as much as I appreciated the gesture, something about it felt mechanical rather than passionate. Whereas my gesture had been a meaningful statement of my commitment to our relationship, his felt like a robotic (though well-intentioned) act of simple reciprocity – an exchange of one item for another. You did something romantic for me, now I’m going to do something romantic for you.

Regardless, I kept the heart by my bedside throughout our relationship, throughout the breakups and breakdowns, holding tight to it until years of his inability to commit finally started to break me. I went to bury that heart in the yard dozens of times – something about it felt like a cruel joke to me once it became apparent that this man had not, in fact, put his whole heart into this relationship at any point during those many years.

So when I found it in the garage recently, I was surprised. Hadn’t I buried it? I wondered. Hadn’t I thrown it in the trash? Given it away? What was it still doing here?

There were tears and another attempt to stuff it into a different box where I wouldn’t have to look at it again, wouldn’t have to face those memories, that pain.

And yet, a few days later, I found myself digging it out again. I held it in my hand. I took a good, long look at it.

That heart was mine. Something within me very clearly told me that. It wasn’t about the ex. It was about the healing of my heartbreak.

I had given everything I had to that relationship. My heart grew and grew to meet the challenge time after time, disappointment after disappointment. My heart was a powerful force I hadn’t realized I had.

I slept with the heart under my pillow that night, just like I had done when he had first given it to me. But the meaning was entirely different. It was no longer steeped in the heartbreak of our relationship ending. It wasn’t about him, at all.

It’s about me. The power within my own heart. The unending capacity I have to love others. The strength of forgiveness that resides within me.

This heart is mine now. I have taken ownership of it, transformed it from a symbol of transient puppy love to a talisman of true strength and unconditional acceptance.

My heart is still “all in.”