My heart has broken so often it is covered with tape and bits of glue, it’s misshapen, and at times it limps along behind me, barely keeping pace. After a break it never returns to the way it had been; after each fracture the pieces slowly find their way back to each other and then seem to affix in random ways, the result a lumpy thing that experiences life in an unfamiliar way, whose desires are a bit different than before. It feels familiar to me, yet strangely foreign.

I thought, I believed, I dreamed, I desired. I created an expectation—which Buddha knew to be the cause of all suffering—then my fragile heart crashed against a rocky shoreline and shattered.

I suppose the first step toward healing is the awareness that one’s heart has shifted and changed—from this day forward it is on a slightly different path. The break cracks it open: each fissure exposes edges and allows access to its depth, to parts perhaps unknown. Sometimes these newly exposed parts shriek with the pain of light, sometimes they weep at their nakedness.

As my heart lies in disrepair, I feel each separate piece, and I wait for wisdom, I wait for those previously undiscovered fragments to speak.

I ride my bicycle. I inhale autumn’s fragrances—loam, decomposition, burning wood—it is a season of acceptance, of loss, of what was solid becoming ash. A promise of rebirth lies beneath, but my heart cannot feel, cannot yet believe. I catch the wide brown eyes of a doe, slender among denuded oaks, and a minuscule sliver of my heart quivers. I pedal harder, hoping to exhaust the scattered segments into collapsing back together. Instead, the individual pieces burn, my chest alight. I feel small flames throughout.

I take on long-forgotten tasks, I organize, I nest. Again, a flicker of heat, a reconsidering, as I restack favorite books, smooth the duvet, re-stain the parched, neglected, cedar fence.

I reconsider what I want. Yes, at its core, this remains the same. Two pieces come together, edges fusing in a burn that spreads throughout the entirety of my rib cage. Wisdom, strength, space, adventure, endless possibilities. Purple walls in my office, philosophical discussions, canoeing, a hike in the snow, exploration of canyons and gorges, hearts, minds. Labyrinths, enigmas, the enduring question, why. More pieces slip into place, some as before, some in new locations. Heat.

I forgive myself for the tears, the drama, the pity. I tell myself nothing good comes easily. I take a moment to shop online at my favorite outdoor-gear retailer; imagining, but not purchasing. A few more pieces slip into place. I write a short to-do list: Pull old files to shred. Fill a give-away box. Be me.

My heart is not as it was yesterday, yet it glows. It’s calling in those last stragglers. It’s lumpy and misshapen, and it promises to be there for me, as long as I vow to listen, always, and work to give my reassembled, curious, tenacious, intractable heart exactly what it wants.