The little piece of writing below (maybe a poem) recently scurried into a page of my notebook during one of my morning writing sessions. Later I realized it must have bubbled up from a recent conversation with a psychotherapist friend of mine about how challenging it can be to keep our deepest promises. I mean the ones we make to ourselves.
In our conversation, we ranged over many such vows. Like ones we make for exercising more and the improvement of our health. Or perhaps that promise we make to work smarter and more creatively. And especially those really hard promises regarding our closest relationships. You know that self-pledge to not be so hardheaded about being right, that sort of thing.
Soon our talk roamed into the specific challenge of preventing our mood and physiology and especially our inner critic from ganging up on us at the same time. Because they often muscle in and wrest away essential decisions about the running of our lives. (Think perfect storm: Bad mood, meets fight-or-flight response, meets inner critic!)
Not wanting to leave ourselves in such despair, my friend and I felt a surge of ambition and turned our thoughts toward more hopeful things. That is, we talked about a kind of cure. How we must recognize then get down below the sometimes hurtful vagaries of our current mood. Next, we talked about burrowing down even deeper underneath the physiology of our bodies, where an extra abundance of certain hormones like adrenalin and cortisol can conspire to be in charge.
And finally, we concluded we must sink down even deeper, where the voice of our inner critic lurks. That singularly unhelpful voice happy to have us remain in one rut or another.
In fact, it’s just beyond this deepest place inside each of us where I believe our courage lies. The “cor” in courage being the ancient word for heart. So it is courage that both points toward (and) then allows us to follow the inner-most feelings of our heart.
This can make the vital difference in our not winding up in some alienated cul-de-sac of shame or fear or guilt that keeps us depressed and stuck. Versus the courageous decision (and move) to wonderfully overwhelm our lives with the connected joy, surprise, and healing potential of each moment.
Because when this happens and the heart rules, we are far more likely to take that walk, write that story or poem, make that change at work, resist being right, paint, meditate, and yes even forgo that sugary treat.
Of course, knowing my own weakness for words and my advanced case of Adult Onset Poetry Syndrome, I couldn’t help but think about having a few poems around to help this heart-directed process. After all, it was writer Anne Lamott who coined one of my favorite guiding mantras: “My mind is a bad neighborhood I try not to go into alone.”
Here is a poem I’m including in my own neighborhood taming, first aid kit for handling these normal emergencies of life. Because at times we all get bullied, battered or simply confused. That’s when we most need to remember… let heart decide.
Mood says, whatever it wants.
Body says, I’m too tired.
Inner critic says, only no.
Heart says, let me decide.
Courage looks down at the
ground, tracing a toe in the dust,
then stutters, and quietly confides:
Yes, let heart decide…
By Dale Biron