I have a semi-codependent relationship with Don Henley’s “Heart of the Matter.” After my divorce, I purposely played it to sing in ragged sobs the lines “But I think it’s about forgiveness – forgiveness – even if, even if you don't love me anymore.” Even when there wasn't any reason to be sad, I played it just to feel that deep pain it brings. I think it’s that phrase “even if you don't love me anymore” that most stabs me in the heart. Years have passed, yet I tear up at that line and how it asks me to accept someone’s failings after anticipating commitment to long-term promises.
That anticipation starts around the time of grade school Valentine’s Days. Like mini Magic Eight Balls, the candy hearts promise insight into a person’s feelings. Shyly gluing an “All Mine” onto the cheap boxed cartoon-themed Valentines for a secret crush sets up a hope that a “Hug Me” or, impossibly, “Love You” might be returned. Usually, though, it’s “Just Friends” or “No Way.”
Childhood valentines move on to school dances and early dating, with questions about what has to happen to secure someone’s love, and then to going steady with its promise of exclusivity. They're all practice runs, it feels, for the vow “'til death do us part.” When that vow derails – at any point along life's way – I'm expected to forgive the other’s rejection and not hold a grudge. But I find an “I'm Sorry” or “It’s Me, Not You” candy heart doesn't make it any easier.
But now I think that the heart of the matter is forgiveness of myself, even if you or he or whomever doesn't love me anymore, and that switch changes the reason for the tears. I have to forgive that “me-I-was” and look for what I have become as the “me-I-am.” And I have to remember that those candy hearts’ potential really doesn't satisfy my need to love myself any better than they taste.