Open Up Your Ribs and Let Them In

by Elena Bender

I’ve always had a very complicated relationship with my emotions. Either I drown in a tsunami of feeling, or my heart resides in The Sahara with no memory of what it feels like to care for something. Both of these are horribly unbearable, and I yearn for the other when I’m experiencing the counterpart. This piece explores this complicated relationship I have with love and emotion.

The Film

My film tells two stories. The first scene with the multicolored hearts tells of friends who come, build seemingly unbreakable bonds with the main character, and then leave for a variety of reasons. The protagonist is left to her own devices when her friends all go; for a moment she sustains happiness but soon finds herself in a vacuum of her own consciousness. After her journey, she is seen greeting her friends as they come to say a final goodbye. This goodbye does not resemble the initial goodbye; it’s as if they are whispering “it’s ok” to each other as they leave. Because, it is ok, and goodbyes are sometimes necessary. And though some loved ones may leave, we won’t be left alone.

The scenes within the film display multiple experiences with love including the fear of it. The pendulum represents the desire to defy physics and swing to the right, which represents only feeling and consuming love. So often, however, the pendulum seems to reside on the left—at an absence of emotion—leaving the heart yearning. The scene with the skeleton refers to the feeling of being in love. The song “Fineshrine” by Purity Ring describes this feeling: “Get a little closer, let fold. Cut open my sternum, and pull. My little ribs around you. The lungs of me be crowns over you.” Sometimes I wish I could just open my chest cavity up and envelop my loved one inside of me. It seems that this is the only way they could possibly be close enough to me.

The Poem

The accompanying poem is addressed to my mother, or I guess, mother figures in general. The bond between a mother and her child seems to be the purest kind—the purest form of love and one that’s rarely tainted. I wrote this to my mother because I was struggling with finding an emotion or relationship that held the strength and purity associated with motherhood. I wanted my words to stem from pure love, and I wanted to empathize with someone who I knew for sure, loved me.

The poem is meant to be read aloud as it sequentially narrates the emotions presented in the film. With it, is a recording of my voice reading it, which you can choose to listen to alongside the film. Another option is to watch it with a loved one and read it to each other. The piece is entitled: “A Letter to a Loved One.”


*Editors Note: the video and read poem are intended to be viewed simultaneously. It works best if you open each link in a separate window and play them at the same time.

The Film

The Poem


Full text of the poem:

When I was younger, I used to be able to love so much that I felt I could cover the world with it. I felt as though it was my responsibility, as a giant whale, to dive into the pond and drench everyone with all that I had to offer. I wanted to go to India and solve the hunger problem. I felt fearless. You would always tell me that it was dangerous, and I would get hurt. But that didn’t matter to me. It was my job. And if I got hurt that would be a blessing.

And then I got hurt, and it didn’t feel like a blessing, and for the first time, I felt real fear.

I love you, and I have never been hurt through loving you, but I think you receive pain from loving me. When you really love someone, you wish everything for them, and to see the object of your affection in agony, hurts tremendously. And if you didn’t love them, then their pain wouldn’t mean your pain. You would be safe, and they would be alone.

I am so terrified of being a mother. I am scared that I am going to mess my children up, or that I won’t be able to love them enough. Or that I will love them, and it will hurt, so much.

I know that everyone needs love, but even more so everyone needs to love. I used to wonder, if given the choice whether I would never be loved again or never love again. And I can unquestionably say that I would rather never be loved again, because I have felt what it feels like to not love anyone. And without loving someone I am not a human being. And to love, is to be alive.