the art of heartbreak

August 11, 2010

For a while I was thinking of calling my book Heartbreak, because that’s essentially what it was, what I experienced. As cliched as it may sound, the loss of John shattered my heart into a million pieces. So I sat with that title for many months, but a writer (and psychologist) who was working with me on the drafts, wisely asked me to re-think that title. It was too Daniell Steele, she thought. But it’s the truth, I argued. It’s what my book is about: heartbreak and the anatomy of it, the piercing lived experience of waking up one day to a permanent and irreversible fate. Still, she said, the word heartbreak is everywhere, it’s trashy, its lost its meaning and carries no weight. How can you convey your heartbreak in your own personalized way? She asked. So I sat with that question (as well as my thoughts around how heartbreak has become meaningless in our society). And eventually the line from a poem I wrote about John while he was still alive, called My Blue Sky, came to mind. And with that, was born the title Love You Like the Sky: my own personalized expression of heartbreak.

Last weekend, a friend took me over to El Mercado in East L.A. I’d never heard of it, as it’s a Mexican mini shopping plaza with actual Mariachi restaurants. She’s in the process of getting a divorce and since she’s from Mexico, Mariachi music is apparently the way even the most macho of men drown their sorrows- usually accompanied by a bottle of tequila. So we went. I was the only gringa in the place and English was just not spoken. It was awesome. I felt like I was in Mexico with the murals, Spanish tiles, and of course the noisy Mariachi bands flanking stages on all sides of the central plaza.

As we drank margaritas my friend translated the lyrics. Mariachi music is all about heartbreak. I’ve always ignorantly assumed Mariachi was just some cutesy touristy band music used to solicit a few bucks and help men woo their dates. I had no idea it was the precious art form of heartbreak that it is; expressing with unabashed abandon the exquisitely painful longings of lost love. My kind of music. Woeful, from the heart, from the soul. Not the American version of soft rock love songs on Lite FM (and god knows I love a good Journey song…). Mariachi music is the real deal: the my-life stops-without -you, I-would-die-for -you, life -is -not -worth -living -if -you -are -gone  REAL deal. I suppose every culture has their own unique expression of heartbreak. No matter who we are or where we are, it’s a truly universal human experience, and I challenge anyone to go through life without feeling it in some form or another. It’s almost the essence of what we signed up for when we enlisted on planet earth —  spurring innumerable expressions of it in every possible medium and every possible way– propelling men and women throughout history to epic greatness beyond imagination. And to paraphrase the late Buddhist master  Chogyam Trungpa, the ideal state for the warrior is broken-heartedness.

And so…before I even heard the translation, this mariachi song moved me by its passion and its longing as it mirrors my own.

Como Quien Pierde Una Estrella by Alejandro Fernandez

{Like Who Loses a Star}

(this link may need to be streamed)

I love you, I say this as a lament,
a moan that the wind carries everywhere
I love you, what pain losing you
like someone losing a star that is going to infinity
ayyyaaayyyyyyyaayyyy, aaaaaayyyyyy
I want you to hear my cry, how I miss dolio
much love after
after trying both ayyyyyy
dear Lord give me comfort to me from inside
this is killing me ay ay ayyyy, ayyyyyyy …

I love you, I say this as a lament,
a moan that the wind carries everywhere
I love you, what pain losing you
like someone losing a star that is going to infinity
ayyyaaayyyyyyyaayyyy, aaaaaayyyyyy
I want you to hear my cry, how I miss dolio
much love after
after trying both ayyyyyy
dear Lord give me comfort to me from inside
this is killing me ay ay ayyyy, ayyyyyyy …

* * * * * * *

There’s so many of us out there around the world, experiencing their hearts broken open and relating to these feelings. Why should they be minimized, cast as cliches, or meaningless. It’s real. The jagged edge of life and death.

Here’s to reviving the significance of Massive Colossal Heartbreaks of Epic F*ing Proportions

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2 Responses to “the art of heartbreak”

  1. nyla said

    Here, here. I second that notion.
    Your mariachi heartbreak song reminded me of one the best heartbreak songs EVER (at least for me.) It too has a mariachi flavor fused with a couple of other styles. you probably know it: Devotchka’s “How It Ends”….

    • WOW! I hadn’t known that song. What a song. what a video! reminds me of my dreams of NYC.

      N- thanks for sharing! Us “fours” have to stick together when it comes to heartbreak. xo u!

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