Did you know having a broken heart is a medical reality? The Mayo Clinic says “broken heart syndrome” is a temporary heart condition that’s often brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one or loss of a key relationship. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they’re having a heart attack.
And yes, you can die from a broken heart. Traumatic life events such as the death of a loved one, loss of a key relationship, or even an emotional memory can cause broken heart syndrome. The syndrome occurs when a surge of stress hormones cause short-term heart muscle failure. The chemicals actually temporarily weaken the heart tissue. A severe enough failure could kill you.
This makes me wonder how many people are walking around with broken hearts? I used to be one of them. Two things helped me on my journey to happiness: slack and writing. Please permit me to explain.
The most common ways for our hearts to get broken are:
- Losing a loved one by their death
- Being rejected by someone we love or we think loves us
- Holding on to resentment of others
- Feeling disappointed because things did not turn out as we planned
Loss, rejection, resentment, disappointment all could trigger a broken heart. For me, it was betrayal, which I internalized as the feeling of rejection.
To heal the wounds of my broken heart, I first made time for downtime. By society’s standards, making time for unproductive time is taboo. Competitive environments push people to reduce slack, not increase it. The reality is that systems with slack are more resilient because the extra time is not wasted. My buffer was used to clear and calm my mind, reflect, think and be creative. It’s now become habit, and my daily rituals for intentionally creating slack have made me more productive because I’m working smarter, not harder.
Second, I learned to write, which was no small task. Writing has never been easy for me, so I had to overcome my fear of writing and lack of confidence to write. From a young age, I had conditioned my mind to think of myself as a poor writer. It was my weakest subject in school, and I scored poorly on that portion of the SATs. I forced myself to start with a journal. After a few months, I then took a giant leap by publishing this blog. That really put me out there. I’ll never forget clicking the “publish” button on my first story. I literally shut my eyes and clicked! I wrote 60 whole words. Hey, it was a start. (If you’d like to read that initial story, click here.)
One of my mentors, Seth Godin, said in a recent blog, “Writing is organized thinking on behalf of persuasion … Writing may be the skill with the highest return on investment of all. Because writing is a symptom of thinking.” To read Seth’s full blog post on the subject, click here.
Well said, Seth. It’s certainly produced the highest ROI for me. More than my BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering. More than my MBA.
So to wrap this up in a bow, in response to my broken heart, I first created space to clearly think, i.e. slack, and then I learned to write. Now, I am the happiest I’ve ever been and doing my best work, which I call my craft.
Broken heart + Slack + Writing = Happiness
Most people think of work as something you have to do because it’s what society says you need to do to conform. Wake up. Go to work. Return home. Repeat. We don’t want to do it, but we have to do it. Is it any wonder work feels like work for most people? It’s a grind.
Not for me. My work is my craft. It’s intrinsically linked to God’s purpose for my life. It’s where he’s leading me. It’s living my life in response to his love. It’s what he’s called me to do because he’s the one who created me and knows me.
My craft is my work that does not seem like work. It’s what I enjoy doing moment to moment, day after day, year after year. It’s the single thread that weaves together every aspect of my life. It’s pure joy, pure happiness.