Stronger at the broken places

I read much of the time, and before Hurricane Ike destroyed a great deal of the Bolivar Peninsula, I had quite a personal collection of good books. Some might not seem like significant works to others, but to me, they were old and dear friends. I might not be able to tell you the exact page number of a certain quote or story, but I could come very close to opening many of my books and pointing to the left top or the bottom right of the page where the writing nested. I had used many of these books for quote sources or good illustrations in all of these years of writing.

My husband, Ted, had shopped in bookstores across the nation, online and outside the USA to complete my set of signed first edition Ernest Hemingway novels. He had also added to this collection several works, both pictorial and written novels about the man himself and how he wrote. Many of you would not like Hemingway because he was certainly rough around the edges and did things out of character for some of my friends, but no one can doubt the man could write. He could put words together that left the reader thinking about them days later.

One such quote has stuck with me for years. Hemingway wrote in 1929 in “A Farewell to Arms,” “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” He added, “But those that will not break, it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these, you can be sure it will kill you, too, but there will be no special hurry.”

Brene Brown would later write, “Courage lives in those spaces inside ourselves that Hemingway called broken. The difference between those who become a victim of their lives and those who step up to the challenges that life offers them is the choice one makes to enter the arena full out.” She added, “One thing is for certain: we don’t come out of this life alive. We might as well live fiercely with all that we have and all that we are.”

Turning personal for a moment, I have learned a lot in the past two years about being broken and alone. Not to worry — I have scores of good friends and precious family, but when Ted died, I began to feel alone. I felt this way even in a big crowd or around a dinner table with eight or 10 happy eaters. I felt like I was broken and perhaps could not be fixed again to be suitable enough to live a productive life. I knew the Scripture, had taught it for years, I prayed often, I tried to serve others, but alone at night, in a house way too big for one, I still felt broken. I knew that Jesus loved me and that God had a plan for my life, but at the time, I did not know or recognize that plan.

I am better now. In fact, I am better enough to begin to write about my journey. I do that because I have found others know this feeling of brokenness all too well. Not a week goes by that I don’t get between two and five phone calls, (and sometimes more), several e-mails, and even a rare visit from someone that has read my column in one media source or another. And something else I have learned: These people are not necessarily reading the most current edition or most recent online post. The dear lady that phoned yesterday was reading from a year-old copy of The Examiner. The story that brought her to tears was about Easter. So, when the editor or publisher tells his writers that the printed page or the posted quote is out there for all time and eternity, he is telling the truth. I thank each of our readers who take the time to comment, question, disagree, instruct, or thank us for our work, for our time, for our life experiences, and for our ability to put our thoughts on paper. You are not a distraction to this writer, but most often, a blessing.

I want to encourage, to bless, to help, and to lend insight about the things that I have learned in my own life journey. I can tell you that we are indeed often stronger at our broken places. I will write about this subject again perhaps next week.


Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.