Is Heartbreak My Price for Courage?

I began 2017 with the embracing the spirit of courage in the ordinary. I am just a mom, I say. I am just one voice. There isn’t much I can really do to change the world, I wrote in January. But I have three worlds I influence pretty heavily; and I vowed to teach them to live courageously. That would be my gift to the world in 2017. It is the simple thing I can do.


As 2017 comes to a close, I have begun to wonder, to reflect, on how well I am doing. Am I giving the world the best of my gift?


And then a friend introduced me to a quote by Eudora Welty:


“We are the breakers of our own hearts.”


And I wondered, is this true? Am I teaching my children to be courageous but breaking my own heart in the process? Since courage is the act of living with your heart, in your heart, from your heart, can we be courageous without having heartbreak?




My story goes like this:


Once upon a time, the mama begins.  Her new baby is nestled in her arms. The mama looks down upon the sweet face.  She knows she will move heaven and earth for this child. The story she begins for her child is one of courage, wisdom, and love. The mama is determined for this to be the story of her child’s life.


The child looks back at the mama and smiles. The mama is filled with more love than she could ever imagine feeling for another human being. The mama puts her heart into the child. Everything she is, she gives to this sweet child of hers.


The child grows and becomes strong and wise. The child is surrounded by love always so that it listens to the mama and learns from her. The child guards the mama’s heart, knowing the importance of this gift. The sun shines and the rains come, spring, summer, fall and winter. All is good for many years.


Yet the story doesn’t go where the mama plans for it to go.


One day, the child chooses a path of it’s own. The mama watches as her heart walks down a new, uncharted path. This is not the story as I told it, she thinks.


She did everything right. She treasured her child and gave everything she had. She runs after her child, asking her child to return to the path she prepared. She begs her child to come back to her.


Only now that her child had seen what else was in the world, the child wants to give its heart to other people and other paths, not just his mama and her ways. So, the child said, “No Mama, I cannot come back.”


“But my child,” she cried, “You have my heart. What will I do?”


“Mama, I will give you back your heart, so I can live as I desire.”


Except her heart had joined with her child’s heart when she gave it all those years before; their hearts beat together. So, when the child tried to give back the mama’s heart, it was stuck to it’s own heart, unable to move. The child yanked and pulled until one piece of the mama’s heart broke off and one piece stayed with the child. The child handed the mama the piece of broken heart, “I’m sorry Mama, but I broke your heart.”


The mama took her heart piece back in her hand. With a tear in her eye, she looked at her child. She noticed her child had become a man. His legs had become thicker and full of dark hair. He face had filled out a little and filled with fuzz. She looked back at the piece of her heart in her hand and said, “That’s ok my son. Take the other piece with you and know that I’m with you always.”


As she watched him walk away, she knew that it had to be this way. Somehow she had always known it would be this way. For you cannot love fully without breaking a bit of your heart.




My husband and I went to see the BoDeans play at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis this past week. It has been awhile since I’ve seen this band from my youth. I have memories of an outdoor venue, warm beer, and a sticky July Minnesota night.

This was different.

Twenty years of living life really does something to help a person appreciate music. Don’t get me wrong, I still love “Closer to Free.” I was transported to my dorm room to watch “Friends” with my college roommates on any given Thursday night in 1993. But when they played “You Don’t Get Much,” I thought it summed up my 2017 as a mom pretty well.


Because the truth is, as my oldest looks at colleges, I realize the key to my whole life with him is in the giving of my heart to him long ago. As he chooses his path now, there isn’t much I can do about where life will take him. But I certainly hope the amount I gave to start him out on his journey will be enough.


And my middle one continues to choose to try opportunities that aren’t always easy or comfortable. Sometimes he does well and sometimes he fails and I cannot control which outcome is which most of the time.  The key is if I hadn’t given him my heart long ago, he wouldn’t be able to have that extra bit of courage he needs to do the things that aren’t always guaranteed to end in success.


My youngest continues to navigate life in relationships. She is unique in the fact that she can bring people together, but sometimes she tries everything and she just cannot win someone over. The key is if I hadn’t given her my heart long ago, she wouldn’t be able to keep loving people even when someone doesn’t love her back.


In me they have a soft place to land, a cheerleader and the extra courage to borrow when the going gets tough. When the going gets tough for any of them, it breaks my heart into a million pieces. So, I guess Eudora Welty was right.

Because you really don’t get much without giving…and heartbreak seems to be the price of giving my three the courage they need to face this world.

So here I am signed up for more of the same in 2018…courage and heartbreak…

Hopefully more courage than heartbreak?

I hope.

2 thoughts on “Is Heartbreak My Price for Courage?

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