Listening to Your Heart – Father and Daughter

Following on yesterday’s blog, life just isn’t simple.  What if you’re a parent, or the only breadwinner, and your heart yells at you to do something that’s more fulfilling, but you’ve got to put food on the table today and tomorrow.  And what if you’re the honorable sort and you really want to do that?

I think about my father.  He studied accountancy at his father’s suggestion and because he was good at maths, probably.  But he never wanted actively to be an accountant.  He wanted to design and build bridges.  I guess he thought he would get to it one day and he was heavily influenced by his father’s idea that you had to be practical first.

I think designing and building bridges is pretty practical, personally, but my grandfather obviously didn’t.  Well, my father listened to him and got his degree.  Then he and my mother got married, and she had her breakdown and my oldest sister had her back injury.  Somehow they never got better.  And my Dad couldn’t get off the treadmill.

He never played the martyr, it wasn’t in his nature.  He made the best of a bad job, but over the years he lost his spontaneity as he gave up everything that was meaningful to him.  Why did he do that?  Well, my mother played a massive role in sucking the life out of him.   Always criticizing him, sapping his joy, soaking up all the family resources, accusing him of being the author of her breakdown.

He’d made a vow “in sickness and in health” which he didn’t believe he was allowed to break.  Did he want to?  I don’t know.  He never showed that he did, not even covertly.  It never occurred to me as a child that he didn’t want to be where he was, that he didn’t want to be my father, didn’t want to make sure we all had food and clothes and a roof over our heads.  I don’t know how he found the strength to stay participating, to do the job that he hated, providing for everybody.

As a small child I knew him to be a bright-spirited, big-hearted, energetic, creative, sociable man.   Everybody loved him.  By the time he died – just before he was due to retire – he was a ghost of his former self, although he was looking for a way to get his mojo back, to retiring and studying different religions at university.   But he was too tired, and somewhere within him I think he made the decision it’s enough now, I need to rest.

Anybody looking at him might say he never listened to his heart, never gave himself the chance.  But I’m not so sure of that.  Maybe the thing he set his heart on more than designing and building bridges was to keep some degree of stability and normalcy in the family, to be honorable and keep his promises, no matter how hard it was for him.

He taught me the sanctity of promises and the reality of love.  But he also said to me dream as big as you can, and live your life in the biggest way that you can.  I smile at the memory of him saying if you want to do something and you know you’re going to be told you can’t, do before you ask!  You may get into trouble, but at least you’ll have had the satisfaction of doing what you wanted to do.

Life isn’t simple.  I’m beginning to see that the dreams I thought I had for him are really the dreams I have for myself.  He did follow his heart, and he did it successfully.  I just wish he could have had it easier.  I wish he was alive.  Well his body isn’t here any more, but his spirit lives on in my heart.

Listening to Your Heart, Believing in Yourself, Finding Fulfillment

“But the eyes are blind.  One must look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince, Chapter XXV

There was such a great episode on Being Erica last night about choices that seem logical but feel wrong.  We live in a logic-driven world, and there’s something appealing about it, it feels so safe.  But living your life doing the things that seem logically sensible isn‘t always safe.

People who work all their lives at “good” jobs that stifle them, earning safe money, aim for that day they retire and can start doing what they want.  But how many have heart attacks, strokes,   cancer and all manner of body ills by the time they retire?  Because they’ve never lived with joy, never pursued a dream.  They’ve always been practical and logical even when it went against their heart.

Suddenly one day it’s over and it’s too late.  So how safe was it all really?  Denying your heart impacts on your body in a real physical way.   We’re not built to be stifled, we’re built for the expression of joy and creativity.  When we’re out of that mode, our chemical and electrical systems are thrown out of balance.  We get dis-eased.

I was never able to do the safe thing.  It wasn’t something I actively thought about, I just was so sure in some part of myself that things would work out if I listened to my heart.  I kind of jumped off a cliff into life as a young adult.  Things didn’t work out, though, not in a natural way.  I’ve made some awful decisions, taken a lot of hard knocks.

Turns out it’s as difficult and complicated to follow your heart as it is to follow the logical safe route and be happy.  People often say all you have to do is find your passion and then doors fly open for you.  No they don’t, not always.  There’s this minor obstacle called self-esteem.  If yours is depleted, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about something, you’re unlikely to find success in it until you’ve healed on the inside.  Low self esteem means you don’t trust yourself.

Passion doesn’t make you successful.  Strong self-esteem, good entitlement, believing in yourself – those are the ingredients, I think.   Passion just keeps you on the road, because it gets difficult.  When you follow your heart you’re carving out your own path in life, and that’s a good thing.  But there are no insurance policies doing it this way, and nobody can say to you if you follow these rules you’ll be okay because there aren’t any rules.  It’s just you and your heart.

You have to have a whole lot of faith in the idea that your heart is actually the voice of life guiding you through the quagmire that is your low self-esteem and incomplete consciousness and all the misbegotten things you’ve learned from bad role models.  You have to blindly believe that your heart will lead you to what you need to learn, to overcome obstacles, and that it can guide you in material matters as well as spiritual ones.

We have the capacity to shut off our emotions and hearts and build material empires with our logical ability.  We can have huge wealth, and even stand out above the crowd.  But we’re not really individuals; our wealth is garnered off the backs of others, and fulfillment surely eludes us.

But if we pay attention to our hearts and emotions, and use our logical capacity without being ruled by it, we can have material wealth and find fulfillment.  Wealth comes from people and people respond to personal power, which comes from listening to your heart, healing your self esteem, learning from better role models and risking being an individual.  I’d say it’s at least worth the risk of trying.

Choosing life over non-life: when you get a cancer wake-up call

I don’t have cancer.  I had a very atypical dysplastic nevus, an ugly duckling, but the doc got it all out.   I’m exceptionally relieved it wasn’t malignant.  But I can’t just forget about it and go on as I was before.  It developed in my body because of something.  I don’t believe cancer is caused by a gene.  I think you can have a genetic tendency for cancer to be the disease of your body’s choice.

But what makes the disease become real?  Maybe not listening to what you need right deep in your heart.  Instead you say I’ll listen tomorrow, or I can’t afford to listen, I won’t think about it, or I’m not allowed to have what I need, not allowed to ask for it, not allowed to really flourish.  You postpone the inner yearning in small things, big things, medium things, every day, every hour, every minute.  Not now, you say to yourself.  No No No No No.

And the life force within gets dammed up, it can’t flow.   Inhibited by distorted ideas of what’s acceptable and what isn’t within society, what makes you a good person, what lets you get to heaven, inadequate permissions, lousy self esteem – refusal to listen to that plaintive cry within please let me live.

It’s the same as saying to a child who’s crying from great distress “shut up, I don’t want to listen.  Go sit in the corner where I can’t see you.”   The result?   Depression, unhappiness.  Because we choose non-life.  We get all sorts of wake-up calls.  Emotions for a start.  They tell us something’s wrong, but we don’t hear.  We get aches and pains, we’re unhappy, uninspired, tired, worn down.  Still we don’t listen.  The last thing we’ve got that can wake us up is that our body gets diseased.  It’s the last frontier.  After that it’s death.

Which I don’t believe is the end of everything, but it is the end of this time round.  Well, I don’t think I’m heading there yet.  But I got a very potent wake-up call.  You can’t postpone any more.  Don’t take this lightly.  The doctor said to be vigilant.  Obviously I’m going to be aware of any new growths, but I’m not focusing my attention on cancer.  I’m focusing it on life.   My vigilance is going to be about Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes, in response to the most important things.  The small ones, the big ones, the medium ones, from moment to moment.  Not tomorrow, not later this afternoon.  Now.

In general, this blog is about the pursuit of dreams.  Mine are to establish myself as a vocalist, script & blog writer & novelist, & to earn by doing something meaningful.  I need help with some things.  Click here to read more about my dreams and what I need.

The Road Less Traveled

A friend told me about Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”.   This is it.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood / And sorry I could not travel both / And be one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair, / And having perhaps the better claim, / Because it was grassy and wanted wear, / Though as for that the passing there / Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black. / Oh, I kept the first for another day! / Yet knowing how way leads on to way, / I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence: / Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –  / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.

I guess we all come to major crossroads at some point, to listen to the part of us that craves to do something with our lives that’s meaningful to us, regardless of whether it makes sense to anybody else.  It often flies in the face of everything we’ve been taught is practical and can lead to success and happiness.

I suppose that’s the road less travelled.  There aren’t any exterior signposts – this is the right way, turn here, stop here etc. – because nobody has travelled that road before.  It’s your road.  Nobody can tell you with any authority what’s right or wrong about it.  The only guiding light you have is from within, a voice that says “this feels right” or “this feels wrong”.  It doesn’t always make sense, even, but the more you listen, the easier it gets to hear it.  When you don’t listen you always get to realize later why that wasn’t an optimum choice.

That road can look very unsafe from the outside, because it isn’t 100% controllable, it requires a degree of flowing with life, and acknowledging that we don’t make everything happen.  We play a distinct role but that’s about it.  J.K. Rowling wasn’t able to control any of the publishers who rejected her first Harry Potter book, and nor could she control the employee in a publishing firm who picked up her manuscript from a pile and read it, then went to her editor, said I think this is good.

The only thing she could do – and she did it – was listen to her heart, write her novel in the way she wanted to, and send it out into the world.  I’ve read somewhere she was living off the dole at the time.  Imagine if she’d said to herself there’s no point in writing this book, nobody else has written one like it, I’d better just go and get a 9-5 job and be practical, realistic.  If she had, she’d never have known what she was throwing away, but I bet she’d have been frustrated as hell.

I don’t suppose choosing the road less travelled always leads to such huge fame and fortune success, but I do believe it brings the kind of reward that remains with you, that isn’t fleeting, and that has the deepest meaning, the one that’s most fulfilling for you.

Crossroads –I don’t think we just come to one in our lives; I think we face them all the time, every time we make a decision, a choice around what we do with our lives and our relationships.  And I know we can’t go back in time and walk down the road we didn’t choose, but I do believe we can stop at any point along the way and say “I’m changing direction.  This way that I chose isn’t the right one for me”.

Life is a fluid thing.  It can be hard to flow with it, give up a degree of control, and hot foot it down the road less traveled.

But I reckon it’s even harder not to.