It felt like a reckoning or one of those moments of truth—like in the Matrix when Neo has to choose between red pill or the blue pill from Morpheus’s outstretched hands.
The book in my cart wasn’t just any book, like a light summer beach read (not that there’s anything wrong with that…), it was Pema Chodron’s beloved bestseller When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
The weapon wasn’t a fire arm or nunchucks (which I’m seeing as ironic now, because Pema Chodron is ACTUALLY a Buddhist nun…), but was a set of 3 Smith & Wesson Hawkeye throwing axes—10″ stainless steel ones, complete with bottle opener and protective nylon sheath.
So in difficult times, what do I reach for—the book written by the Buddhist nun that helps my heart to heal or the steel axes that promise both recreational and competitive fun?
I have openly and frequently admitted to being a woman of many contradictions (engaging in full moon rituals and going to monster truck rallies, for instance…), but this moment on my front lawn gave me pause, and reminded me of the core invitation of Margaret Wheatley’s book on leadership that I’m reading:
Who do we choose to be?
Am I heart-centered or axe-wielding in difficult times? I get to choose.
I would have rolled my eyes at this question a year ago and said I was being too dramatic (or “too” something else….) But on a drive off the beaten path up north recently, I noticed a number of large signs for Trump 2024 planted squarely on front lawns and road-side fields that demonstrated just how far some of us have moved away from our hearts. The large banner, quite simply, read: F*ck Your Feelings.
It wasn’t just an isolated occurrence, as I saw that same banner again and again that weekend as we celebrated our “independence” in these United States.
As a woman who has lived fifty-two years in this world, I am no stranger to being told my feelings have no value, purpose or relevance. I spent the first half of my life believing that, and the second half of my life actively undoing all that training. But something was different about this—almost like the word feelings was code for more than just our emotions.
I read feelings on that sign and felt this:
F*ck your opinions
F*ck your experience
F*ck your perspective
F*ck your difference
F*ck your desires
F*ck your rights
No wonder that phrase continues to ripple throughout my psyche since seeing it–like how your ears ring really loudly after an explosion.
F*ck your feelings? Really? Is that the invitation of our times on our roadways?
I wasn’t rolling my eyes anymore. I wasn’t dismissing my reaction as being too dramatic. If I’m being honest with you here—something I always aim to do—I was stunned. And frankly, I’m embarrassed, because to admit that is to acknowledge my naiveté and the degree to which I had once again shut my eyes beneath my rose-colored glasses and looked away from what has been right there, all along—in plain site: overt. unapologetic, and publicly sanctioned hatred and violence.
Which, of course, is to acknowledge my privilege as a white woman—and how I had been exercising it to benefit me, by looking away.
I thought about systemic racism and how so many conversations got ignited in 2020 and then stalled—or stopped. I thought about what it would have been like to have been a Black woman with two black sons driving by the sign that day, and how a younger version of them would have asked “Mom, what does f*ck mean?” I thought about the earth and climate change, and how we’ve shut our eyes and looked away from the crisis of this moment, hoping it would somehow resolve itself without disrupting or inconveniencing the humans that call it home. I thought about the words we use to shape our reality, and how they are increasingly violent and do harm.
I thought about what would happen if that banner had read “Feel Your Feelings” instead.
So as I sat on my front lawn that day looking at those two items in my cart, I sat with that question, “Who do I choose to be?”
I could have chosen to buy both items and laugh it off as me embracing my contradictions, after all it’s just a stupid axe-throwing game, right? But I’ve already told you I wasn’t laughing anymore about this. It felt like it was more significant than that—like a path in the woods that was forked.
I probably don’t need to tell you which item arrived on my doorstep a few days later.
The larger lesson for me (once again) that day was about keeping my eyes AND my heart open—however hard and uncomfortable. To see what is right there in the light of day, to feel my way through it, and to let that awareness and experience inform my daily choices.
To feel with my heart, rather than reach for the axe.
To invest my time, energy and money in heart-centered actions that help us all, rather than steel-centered games that benefit a few.
I don’t know if you relate to this experience of cycling through forgetting to remembering and the renewal of commitment that happens as a result, but I’m thinking you might—that’s why I’m sharing it with you today.
I’d love to hear from you if you do, because one thing that helps on this courageous heart-centered path is to know you’re not alone.
We are cyclical creatures. We are beautifully imperfect and always a work in progress, never fully there. And we are full of messy contradictions.
But if I am to stay awake on this path I’ve chosen to walk, I would like to keep my eyes open—step by step, day by day—as I move forward, living and leading with heart.