“Listen to your heart,” sang Roxette.
Words that sound innocuous enough but for some people it is a lifetime battle to do this task justice.
It obviously doesn’t help that your heart speaks a strange, garbled language. Perhaps, Elvish. Perhaps, something else. I don’t know. It doesn’t help that it whispers. Or rather barely whispers and is hardly insistent or demanding.
Quite unlike my thoughts, opinions and fears (be it rational or irrational). They are a bit like Donald Trump. Brash, loud and know exactly how to get my attention.
No wonder its so much easier to ignore what your heart is hinting at.
When I was young, I naturally gravitated towards things that made me happy. I didn’t think about whether these were useful endeavours. Or if they could pay my mortgage. Or whether it was of any practical use.
But slowly what other people thought and said started to seep in and I started factoring them into my life. I didn’t wholly capitulate to what others thought was the best route for me. I rebelled a little.
Or so I thought.
Except, I didn’t really rebel.
True rebellion would have been following what my heart was silently hinting at. True rebellion would have been pursuing my loves without thought of feasibility.
Instead, I wrote off what my heart wanted. Deeming it impossible, impractical. I chose what I thought would be a happy compromise.
The compromise works … for some time. But one day, it becomes too glaring. After all, it IS a compromise. Write, James Baldwin calls on this moment “the collision” between the ACTUAL SELF and your IMAGINED SELF. One day you are going to have to acknowledge the gulf between the two. It stops becoming something you can ignore.
But the problem is the heart still speaks in a weird tongue. Though through the years as you have tried various things and gone through various experiences, you are almost able to start making sense of the whispers.
But a new problem emerges. What your heart is saying doesn’t come with instructions. Its vague. And sometimes you don’t like what its telling you.
“Write, dance,” goes the heart.
“Write what? Dance what? And what about money?” I ask in exasperation. “How is THAT going to pay the mortgage?”
“Write, dance.” There goes the maddening whisper again.
Baldwin goes on to talk about the collision –
“there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish.”
I certainly hope its not as drastic as he predicts. I for one am still clueless about how to fashion a life which includes the desires of my heart but doesn’t require me being homeless.
But now I really know why the root word of courage is coeur (heart in French). Because it sure takes a lot of guts to be truthful to your heart.