to the voice
speaking in still silence.
Give your dreams golden wings,
follow the wind they dance upon.
For it is in silent stillness
the heart knows
what is otherwise concealed:
its true direction.
I wrote that poem when I was only fourteen years old, still living at home with my single mom and our roommates: Mom’s friend and her own two kids. I remember exactly where I was at the time (on the front porch of our house in the Glebe), precisely what I was wearing (navy striped shirt, overalls, and bare feet), the sweet, distinct scent in the air (lilacs after fresh summer rain), and the way it felt to feel the words flow through me, but not from me, as natural as air (exhilarating and empowering).
I heard the words inside my soul so loud they somehow managed to reach my ears. Flushed, I scribbled them down as fast as I could, until they were all gone. I didn’t even see the pen or the page in front of me, or put any effort into the words at all, they just sort of bubbled up and fell out into my notebook. I looked up afterwards, still somewhat dazed, and stretched. As the setting sun dripped thick, golden honey-coloured light all over the rusty old swing-set and slide in the playground across the street, I couldn’t hide a smile, because I knew—in the deepest recesses of my soul—that this was my One True Thing.
If I would just listen, always listen to my heart, no matter what, everything would be okay. I would always be okay.
I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy. If anything, it has been a constant battle of wills between Me, Myself and I, and I don’t mean that in some metaphorical sense. In any situation, I walk a fine line between what Me wants, what Myself thinks, and what I know. It’s hard to listen, even harder to hear, especially through the constant chatter of my mind. I often have to contend with what I want to do, what I really should do, and my heart’s deepest desires. Let me tell you, sometimes it can be extremely challenging to figure out the best course of action, because those three are a lively bunch and they’re not always in agreement. Sometimes, but not always. Still, quiet time alone works wonders if you’re willing to look inside honestly and listen with an open mind to what you hear.
At first, in the early days, my heart led me to go looking for trouble and I found it, as one does when one goes looking for trouble. For a while, I stumbled into one bad relationship after another, and got into all kinds of disastrous situations. I had to learn what to give away and what to keep. How to love without losing myself. These were my lessons. Later, my heart led me to travel. It was then I learned the value of self-love, autonomy, agency, and independence. Amidst a cacophony of opinions, I moved out to the west coast, then later, to the east, worked onboard luxury cruise liners for a year, sailing the Caribbean Sea and Alaska, and then followed it all up with a few years in England before I drifted back home again.
Every time, I listened. Every single time, I learned something new, evolved. Eventually, my dear heart led me to settle down and tread softly, until I arrived where I am right now: Right here. In this moment.
Have I made mistakes along the way? I’m absolutely certain that I have, and will continue to do so. I haven’t always been kind or considerate. Sometimes I have been crabby and impatient, other times, bitchy and overly demanding. I’ve been moody and irrational, arrogant, judgmental or egocentric on occasion, and I’ve been known to hurt the ones I love. Hurt myself. Overall, my biggest mistakes have always been the times I didn’t listen to my heart.
It was never a mistake to love, to lose, to finally let go. It wasn’t wrong to travel, to go on adventures, to find myself somewhere along the way between Cozumel and Ocho Rios and Ketchikan. It was right to have a baby even though nobody else thought I should do it because I’d been travelling and had no husband, no job, no home, no real life. I made one. And it was just as right to keep his brother, despite my relationship to his father being soured from assault, and everyone else’s ideas about what I could—or couldn’t—do on my own. I made that work, too.
There were times I ignored the whispers and dove right into a wrong situation, many times, but it always seemed to work out for the best. I listened and followed my heart into marriage, divorce, remarriage, separation, and a reconciliation. I pursued a post-secondary education when I was ready, for my own reasons, on my own time. Maybe it took about fifteen years longer than it does for most people, but when I finally returned to school, I was more than prepared to learn and earn a degree, I was excited to grow. It was worth waiting for. When it came time to fill out my application, however, I almost wrote: Canadian Studies. Almost ignored the quiet plea in my heart in favour of more practical endeavors. In the end, though, that little voice in my soul won out and I wrote in bold blue ink: English, Creative Writing.
I have never looked back.
Sometimes, we face decisions that don’t feel exactly like decisions and choices that don’t seem so much like choices as they do inevitabilities, stuck as we are in between a proverbial rock and a hard place. Other times, we are forced to confront so many crossroads at once it can be difficult to determine where one road ends and another begins. Everything gets so entangled and confused. We weigh everyone else’s opinions against our own, and often, we come up short. There are times our thoughts get so loud, they get in the way, and others we allow ourselves to be silenced for so long, we almost convince ourselves we’ve got nothing more left to say. For so many reasons, it can be hard to hear that quiet voice within our hearts, but we still have to try.
Life isn’t an easy hike and there’s no guidebook for getting through. But we do have something. We weren’t left out to drift in the wilderness, lost and all alone, with no way to find what we’re looking for. We have a compass, hidden deep within, a brilliant tool to help us find our true north.
Listen to your heart. Listen to the voice speaking to you in still silence. Give your dreams golden wings, a breath, a voice; follow the wind they dance upon. For it is in silent stillness the heart knows what it otherwise concealed: its true direction.
*This post first appeared on Living the Dream blog*