Follow Your Heart
No Valentine’s Day would be complete for me without those silly candy hearts. A single bowl of those tacky pastel conversation hearts found its way to the kitchen table when I was growing up as soon as February rolled around. I never loved the way they looked. For goodness sakes - get the words centered and legible, will you? But I loved the artificial sugary boost. Valentine’s Day was not about any romantic crush - it was all about popping those little once-a-year goodies throughout the month of February. I remember the messages on the hearts were silly and carefree. My sisters and I would laugh about them and toss them at each other’s mouths. My grandmother was never terribly proud of this particular behavior from her little ladies in the house. I can’t imagine why...but I digress.
This year, the very first heart that I pulled from the bag bore a loaded message (still printed off-center and hard to read. Get with it people):
FOLLOW YOUR HEART
Wow. I couldn’t immediately pop it in my mouth because I needed to reread it, and mull it over. What a joke! Follow your heart?? I can’t even follow my hairdresser inside to sit in the chair for a decent haircut - how am I supposed to follow my heart? I stuck it in my pocket and grabbed another less objectionable “Hugs 2 U” heart to taste that delightful sugar I craved. But the original selection sat in my pocket. Follow your heart. It was mocking me. It almost felt as if I was being warned. The message was strangely troubling. I mean, what am I doing to follow my heart? What does that really mean for my life?
I think when people say “follow your heart” it means that we are supposed to do what we feel is best at the time - to follow our inner voice telling us what is right in that moment. Doing what you know to be the right thing even if it is not the easiest thing. It means going after a dream that we might hold dear, even if it seems unattainable or really hard to reach. It is the only way to get to your dreams, so we are often told. Following your heart requires you to stop overthinking situations and take action on instinct. Doing something without worrying about what others might think. Going against conventional wisdom, or standing out on a limb to do what you always wanted. Everything about following your heart does sound a bit risky to me. But I am also the same person who never EVER pulls the tags off of my pillows so maybe my version of “risk” is a little different than many others out there.
Why is it so hard to just follow our hearts? Why is it considered such an act of courage to just follow your heart? I will admit that some find it courageous to do the things that only you are saying should be done. Though voting with your conscience shouldn’t be so troubling, should it? And it is indeed courageous to go after your dreams and put them on the line. I mean, you have to be willing to confront the reality that you might not achieve them, even after you worked for them. So, strangely enough, following your heart can be a bit heartbreaking.
But it is an important part of taking responsibility for our own lives, and how our lives go. I don’t ever see any life coaching advice that tells us to “follow someone else’s heart”. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But that is precisely what we end up doing when we decide to follow what others do, without thinking about how it might run counter to what we truly hope to do, or have, or be. We would never tell our children to just follow the crowd, unless it is lunch time and they aren’t sure where to find their pizza. Go for it. Following the crowd doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. But in the grander scheme of things, following our hearts should be the rule, not the exception. Imagine a life that is completely free of following your own heart? And if you are living this way, isn’t it time to ask yourself why?
I love the idea of following my heart. I can think of plenty of examples in my life when I have followed my own voice. I will concede that it is rarely anything risky, but using my own voice doesn’t have to be risky to be my own. Following my heart often seems like a burden when I am accustomed to holding beliefs and values that are largely in line with those around me. So on the rare occasion that I feel compelled to do something different, more challenging, more unconventional, it takes more work. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. It probably means I should do it more.
I am evolving. Following my heart can be seen as a call to action to stay mindful about what I am choosing to do. It can be an opportunity to at least evaluate and then try. It can be an inspiring reminder that I have a heart - full of my hopes and dreams and thoughts and feelings - and there is always the opportunity to share it, lead with it, nurture it and fulfill it. Following my heart is an opportunity.
Are you following your heart? Are you doing what you believe to be right? Are you going after the things you want in your life even if it is pretty challenging or those around you are skeptical that you can make it happen? Are you listening to your own voice? Are you allowing your own voice to carry the necessary weight on a daily basis so that you are less likely to rely on the crowd showing you the location of your pizza?
It is a certainty that I will be digging my grubby little hands into that bag of candy conversation hearts again and again over the course of the next few weeks. I am not so secretly wishing for something a lot less taxing on my emotions. How about picking a “hot stuff” or a “sweetie pie” heart that I can laugh about? I guess if I do manage to lose the conversation heart lottery and pick another “follow your heart”, I will commit myself to immediate action….and pull those unsightly tags off of my throw pillows without further delay.