They say the longest journey one will ever make is from the head to the heart. There’s always that disconnect, the never ending feud, between the logic of the brain and the passion of the heart. Thinking and feeling are, after all, two completely different functions. In dialectical behavior therapy, we describe these as rational mind and emotional mind.
Some people easily maintain harmony between the two, they are skilled at walking the balance bar while staying poised. Those people aren’t me; I am not a gymnast. Rather, I am the one who constantly stumbles and falls, finally embracing the deep, dark waters of the heart, never seeing that I’m missing the vast sky that is the mind.
Psychologists would refer to how I often live as extreme cognitive dissonance: the idea that two or contradictory beliefs can coexist inside of oneself. All I see is black and white, though, so there’s only ever two options at hand, as if a bird in a hand really is worth two in a bush.
There’s nothing glamorous or romanticized about living in a constant state of turmoil and splitting, with constantly allowing the cognitive dissonance to pull you under. Yet, there I was this past year, trudging to a job everyday that I was rebelling against with everything inside: my clothes, my behavior, my writing. On the surface, I seemed to be dedicated and content, yet internally I was screaming to escape. The longer this deceitful dance continued, the more the emotions came to the surface, portraying out in my motions and performance. Would the final act be my fall?
We rarely think of being fired from a job as a form of serendipity. In fact, it is usually considered devastating, traumatic, and the worst type of luck. When your mind is telling you to stay while your heart feels chained down, though, losing your job can be the magic key that releases your heart to soar and be free yet again.
In the nearly three months since that day my boss told me my contract would not be renewed at the end of the school year, I’ve felt lighter, more relaxed, better able to focus on my personal health and continued recovery from mental illness. I’ve found a renewed dedication to my husband, my children, and our home. There has also been more time to dedicate to writing, allowing me to expand my skills as well as dive into editing for an online publication. Lastly, being free and flexible as the new school year starts is allowing me to have open availability as we navigate our new life of appointments, tests, and therapies for our daughter with a disability.
Charles Dickens says, “There is a wisdom of the head and a wisdom of the heart.” We do need to listen to both of these wisdoms to really know what we truly need. The merging of both our head and our heart, the rational and the wise, is referred to as wise mind or “walking the middle path.” For me, it took nearly drowning in cognitive dissonance to fall into the happenstance of realization by force. Yet, somehow, looking back at all that has happened, I can only describe it as a form of serendipity, of divine intervention to save me from myself.
We have to be willing to listen to our hearts and feel our heads yet also trust in the seemingly dumb luck of the cosmos to ultimately find our “middle path.” We have to allow ourselves to stop, reflect, and embrace all that we think and feel to make the best choices for our lives. Remember, sometimes what looks like the end is really just a new beginning, the next step in our journey, progress to make our life worth living.