There are a million, million ways a heart can break. It can be punched, jabbed, stabbed, twisted, squeezed and stomped. It can happen slowly, the little cuts and bites that once only scratched the surface eventually tearing the organ apart. It can happen swiftly, a sudden explosion leaving only the most microscopic of traces.
This is how thousands of hearts break at once:
Injury Update: Kobe Bryant has a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. He is expected to miss 6 weeks.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 19, 2013
What is it that repairs the heart? Time? Time is a topical treatment, a salve to rub over the afflicted area, dulling the pain, but not repairing the damage the pain caused. It is neither glue nor stitch. Essential to the healing process, yes, but time alone can’t mend the broken organ.
Too little time, and the heart hasn’t even had a chance to scab. Lakers and Kobe fans, barely recovered from the amazement of Kobe’s sooner-than-expected comeback, were still too tender for this. Despite the misery caused by Kobe’s injury last season, and the putrid play of the Lakers this season, they soldiered through because of the promise of Kobe’s return.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it makes a broken heart grow bitter.
Too much time, in fact, and the wound becomes infected. Consider Derrick Rose: the longer Rose sat out, the more games he missed, the angrier some Bulls’ fans grew. They questioned Rose’s loyalty, heart and mettle. Armchair coaches became armchair doctors.
What other remedies might we try? Another person? Someone comes along and sifts through the rubble, collecting the small shards that still remain, piecing them back together, making them whole. With their help, we see it’s possible to be whole once more. If Derrick Rose or Kobe Bryant’s injury broke our hearts, shouldn’t their returns mend it?
There’s a problem with this line of thinking.
Remember Rose’s preseason? The apparent absence of rust, the infusion of creativity into the Bulls’ offense, something they so desperately lacked last season? All appeared well, all hearts started to heal. Then the regular season happened. Then November 23rd happened.
Kobe’s six-game return was an ebb and flow of production: nine points one night, twenty points the next. Four points, then twenty-one, eight then twenty-one again. There was a lack of balance, not just in his scoring, but in his play. And the turnovers, oy vey the turnovers. Then, today happened. Now, Kobe is out for six weeks, perhaps longer, or, knowing Kobe, perhaps shorter.
By wholly depending on someone else to heal us, we foist the burden of repairing solely onto the shoulders of another, when it should rest heavily on our own. As demonstrated today, the person that appears to help us heal can leave just easily as they return — the sort of departure that can break the heart into even smaller pieces than before.
Still, for all of the myriad ways a heart can and does break, it proves resilient. The bits and scraps left over from the explosion seem to pull themselves back together, slowly but surely reforming what was supposedly eradicated. Yet the heart heals like a burst blister, not scabbed skin. It’s hardened and weathered — stronger, yes, but less sensitive.
The calloused heart is more wary and less forgiving than its previously tender form. It approaches success with suspicion and apprehension, not elation — it knows full well the pain of the fall that inevitably follows achievement. It remembers Derrick Rose’s preseason, but it just as vividly remembers his abbreviated regular season. It remembers Kobe’s twenty-point games just as well as his turnovers. When Kobe returns, whatever date that may be, the heart will thump excitedly once more, but with newfound caution as well.
It’s the responsibility of the brokenhearted to fix themselves. Time and other people play their part, but they’re bit actors in the healing process. By taking inventory of the damage and accepting the loss as well as their new reality, those with hearts broken can begin to mend. Kobe Bryant will miss six weeks of the season, Derrick Rose the entirety. This is the new reality. This is how a heart heals.