A Heart Divided


Early last week, I received an email from a friend who lives with a heart divided. On one side is an engaging young woman who sees the world clearly and feels it intensely -all of it. She is bright and intuitive – her first instincts nearly always spot on. She is strong and fiercely determined, but tender like a reed and vulnerable. She is courageous and headstrong, resilient and determined to overcome. She also is kind and compassionate, loyal to a fault and introspective. She is clever and creative, quick-witted and funny. She’d prefer to not be the center of attention – ever – but she deserves to be. I suspect in a safe space, she would gladly share her heart and you would immediately be captivated by its beauty and rush to protect it. But, because her experience has too often been that the world is not a safe space, she guards it and seldom pours it out.

And then there is the other. The officious inter-meddler, green with envy of her better half and hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to keep the authentic version of her unseen. She is a bully in the truest sense of the word, the dark side of perfectionism, unrelenting, hyper-critical, never fully satisfied – abusive. She is slow to acknowledge even the most significant of achievements and quick to diminish or demean. She seizes on moments of self-doubt and makes them her playground. Like a nightmare roommate, she is loud and obnoxious, messy and destructive. She scatters dirty laundry all over the living room and bedroom floors, rearranges furniture without permission, spills grape juice on the carpet at every opportunity and dims or breaks lights and light fixtures – all in the hope that she will drive her truer half away and lay claim to a space that she was never intended to inhabit.

It was clear from the e-mail that both were at it – again. She was writing to let me know that a year of hard work and dedication had paid off. That she’d been selected for a very special honor – albeit not the penultimate one she had aspired to, the one that others, who know little of the back story that made my friend’s achievements that much more remarkable, told her she was certain to get. It was clear that, on some level, she appreciated the mountains she had summited and wanted to embrace the moment. But, the other side had other plans – its “you could’ve/should’ve” voice intent on drowning out the chorus of those who know her story and know her truth. It was eager to distort and transform her accomplishment into a misstep, a falling short, if not an outright failure.

I felt compelled to step in: “My Dear Friend,” I began. “You have been blessed with a special heart, but also a self-critical one. I know that heart intimately, because I too have lived with one for as long as I can remember. My hope is that in this battle the special one will win out and make room to allow you to give yourself a hearty pat on the back for yet another job well-done! Because, while this ‘skirmish’ between the 2 sides may not seem overly important in the grand scheme of things, I assure you every victory won by the special side (and the territory that comes with it!) brings you a little closer to the day when that ‘unwelcomed tenant’ will be gone forever and your authentic self (the real you) will be free at last to enjoy the fullness of life that will have made each of those battles well worth the effort!”

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