Monday, October 17, 2011

Wrapping your heart around it

Metaphors are funny things. Sometimes they cross linguistic boundaries, but more often than not, they fail miserably. That’s because they tell us little about the words.  Instead, they tell us a lot about a culture.

Last week I was at a cafĂ© with an acquaintance, and we were talking about her job prospects. She is going through some professional changes and has several interesting possibilities in the pipeline, but she cannot do all of them. As she was explaining all the options, she said, “I just have to go home and wrap my head around it.”

The head. The mind. Modern society loves them. When making decisions, how often have you heard people say, “list the pros and cons, and follow the path where the pros outweigh the cons.” Under that regime, it is a numbers game. It is the number of pros vs. the number of cons. Their weight has little meaning. But it is simple and easy. All we have to do is count (ok, maybe not so easy for those of us who are lawyers, but we can ask for help with the counting if need be).

Lists of all types speak to our logical side. They can be judged objectively. We can ask others for help with making and interpreting them. Plus, we use our heads so often in today’s society, and lists are common in all areas of our lives. We make grocery lists, to-do lists, invite lists, etc. Putting it down on paper (or screen) externalizes our thought process and allows us to objectively evaluate what we are thinking. This objective analysis is well respected in modernity.

But does it really serve us?

Back at the coffee shop, without really thinking about it, or even realizing I was saying it, I responded, “or your heart around it.”

My acquaintance stopped talking and looked at me. I realized I had just said that out loud. Here I was talking to another logical adult suggesting wrapping her heart around ideas and opportunities. Apparently writing this blog has made me bolder in person than I realized. Apparently it has also helped me see beyond the logic game where so many of us get stuck.

Our minds and lists simply cannot give us the answers. All the objective pros in the world cannot outweigh our heart telling us that something is not right for us. All the objective cons in the world cannot stop us when our heart says to go!

I have been incredibly lucky to have had the support along the way to follow my heart. Objectively, a law firm may have been a better path for me, or had I read the tea leaves on the economy, maybe not even going to law school in the first place. But my heart said go. There was a time when coming to New Zealand and studying their family law system was a pipe dream, but a judge here said, “you find the funding, and I will find you the space to study,” and an Australian psychologist said, “you will find a way; you must find a way.” And here I sit in New Zealand nearly finished with a thesis about the role of lawyers for children (and instead of actually finishing it, I’m blogging, but whatever). I get to start representing children in December in a city I love working with people I love. I could tell you about the loans and the time commitment and the disturbing facts I will face, but that’s my head talking. My heart is leaping with joy.

Of course, we need our heads and our minds. Part of our social contract is that we will work together and create a society in which we do not run into each other or over each other, where we can ensure a solid food supply, etc. These things require logic. But our deepest goals and decisions are not birthed by the head; they begin and end in the heart. Too often we are asked, or forced, to ignore what it says. It is then that we find ourselves in dis-ease.

But hearts are waking up all across the globe. People are recognizing that logic and objective analysis is not the end-all, be-all of our world. This is a difficult concept for those of us who live in our heads all day, every day. We push emotion and “irrelevant facts” to the side and ask ourselves to “focus on what’s relevant.” In a divorce case, parents spend $20,000 (or more) to argue over something worth $10,000. That’s not logic, but it shows us the real story. It shows us what is relevant to the people, even if it is not relevant to the law.

Unfortunately for our logic-trained minds, the heart does not do lists. It does not do easy. It does  not do bright lines. But it does do truth. It sees beyond the lists and the numbers to show us what is truly important. And when we follow our hearts, life just has a funny way of working out. The first step may feel like jumping off a cliff, but that’s when you realize the heart can grow wings.

So, the next time you find yourself needing to wrap your head around something, ask yourself if you are willing to wrap your heart around it instead.


© Rebecca Stahl 2011, all rights reserved.


  1. yup. so true! if only we could trust our heart...b/c the monkey mind causes us to stray...our thoughts will either defeat or liberate!