Heartbreak of Desire

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For the past 4 years, I have issued a collection of love poems for Valentine’s day. This is the general introduction excerpted from my next Valentine’s Day issue, Heartbreak of Desire, to be released in mid-January. Keep posted to get your copy! The book is divided into sections based on the cycle of desire described here: lacking, longing, loving and losing.

For as long as I remember, the horse called Desire has always arrived saddled with Guilt, and the best I could do was to ride it delicately and follow the approved path. Desire was not ruled out, but it was subject to some kind of permission or approval. I could ask for specific things on approved occasions, like birthdays or seasonal gifts. I could want to go places, to see people, or to do things, if the want was restricted to myself. But to request something, or ask others to participate with me, always tainted desire. At best, I felt such requests were favors granted by others and for which I was ultimately undeserving. Anything related to ambition, or the desire to impact the world, always felt risky to me; and desire for another person, sexually or otherwise, was taboo. 

I don’t know when I experienced the first heartbreak of desire, or how many breaks it took for me to hide my desire from myself. Socialization requires all of us to subjugate ourselves, to bend our will to the world, to shape at least some of our self to fit the culture into which we are born. So, it is natural to come to want what the world wants us to want. Even that can be an uphill battle for most of us. Of course, we can never fully tame desire, which is always a little wild and will leak out in confounding ways because we are all, at our core, misfits. But, now that I have aged, my wild desires mostly gone to pasture, what I want is generally “legal.” So it is becoming easier. 

Desire itself has a cycle. It comes out of nowhere, out of an empty place where we realize we are lacking something. If not immediately satisfied and if it does not get consumed back into the void, it transforms into wanting, and, at its best, into a yearning or longing from the heart. To me, longing is a beautiful expression of the purity of desire, the heart reaching beyond itself, poised in suspense, lingering in the delight of anticipation. It thrives in the gap prior to fulfillment or disappointment. I have trained myself, over the years, to love this space. I seek it out and actively work to create it in myself. It’s definitely a boon for poetry.

What do you feel you are currently lacking in yourself or in your life ?

What do you long for in life at this time?

Longing is the door to love. When longing matures, becoming complete in itself, it turns into a beautiful kind of love, especially when the object of affection is another. In love, we are, all at once, captivated by, we long for, and we are fulfilled by and in the beloved. Of course, our awareness of this quality of love waxes and wanes. Like the moon, there are times when it rises into fullness and fills our being and other times when it is hidden from us. But its influence is there operating in the background similar to the way the moon pulls at the ocean tides whether seen or unseen. 

What or whom do you currently love and would not want to lose?

How do you deal with the loss of things or people that you love?

When unseen, we often feel the heartbreak of desire again in the form of loss. Loss, whether real or imagined, is a necessary phase in love. It is the completion of this long journey away from our heart and then back again, through which we learn to love the passing of things, until we loosen our grip, and loss itself becomes our greatest teacher. Loss strips us naked and, in so doing, actually makes us complete in ourselves. Through loss we learn to take the essence of what we love into ourselves, to make it a part of ourselves, and to let go of the form in which we found it. Loss does not make us lesser. It actually makes us greater. 

If we are unable to integrate our loss, it is either absorbed into the void and we move on, or the wound festers into a new and gnawing sense of lack that ignites another cycle of desire, or it becomes another kind of heartbreak that goes beyond the heartbreak from the loss of something or someone. The embers go cold and we experience the heartbreak of desire, which dampens or diminishes the power of desire itself. In severe cases, it results in deep depression and a sense that life has no purpose. Heartbreaks of desire are a natural part of every human life and a required step in the transition from the impulsiveness of childhood to the maturity of adult life. Of course, the heartbreak of desire will likely happen many times. A major task of adult life is rekindling the flames and channeling desire in ways that are productive or personally meaningful and ecological. 

Framing desire as a cycle in this way helps me to welcome “lacking” and “losing” as natural parts of desire and as precursors and end points to the experiences of “longing” and “loving.”  It reveals “lacking” and “longing” as two sides of the same coin. Lacking is the sense that something vital or important is missing or lost. Longing is the desire for something or someone. The focus in lacking is on the void, the empty space, and an urge to fill it while the focus in longing is on a desire for get or gain something or someone that might fill the void. They often go together: We long for something or someone because we think it will fill what we believe is missing in our selves or our lives. 

Similarly, “loving: and “losing” are also two sides of the same coin. What we love will inevitably change, grow, break down, or disappear in some way. If our love does not change with the changing of things, then we will invariably experience loss. And loss, as mentioned earlier is one of the greatest teachers in life. The frame does not lessen the pain from heartbreak, but it does make heartbreak more bearable. It makes me more resilient, more able to integrate loss when I experience it, and more likely to rekindle desire quickly afterwards. And it makes me enjoy even the experience of lacking because I know it is the seed for longing with all the delight of anticipation that it offers, and for loving, which is the stuff that makes life worth living.

© Nick LeForce
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