“A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.” ~ Rumi
For 15 years, my career was not something I loved.
I thought it was normal to feel bored by work, disagree with the values of the organisation you worked for and have little in common with many of your colleagues.
I believed I could tolerate all of it.
Trading happiness for a big pay check, the prestige of working for a worldwide well-known company and the promise of stock options that might yield a small fortune—that was a deal I decided to live with.
At the time, I loved all the things the money could buy. I loved that my parents loved to tell their friends the name of the company I worked for. And I loved feeling like I didn’t need a man to support me.
I believed the payoff was worth it.
Eventually I had to own up to the realisation that—for me—the environment I’d worked in was secretly intolerable. But for years, that was a secret I kept even from myself.
As white, middle class girls growing up in the later part of the 20th century, we were taught to achieve. They assured us, in all kinds of subtle ways, that big dreams were better than small ones. They told us we could do or be anything we wanted…within certain parameters.
So we learned to be creative while colouring inside the lines. We became ambitious for money and power, because that’s what they said mattered.
We learned to succeed in a masculine world.
Displays of emotion made most of our managers and colleagues feel uncomfortable, so we learned to suppress our feelings and kept them secret. We rarely allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. We shared little of our inner reality with anyone else.
We were successful, for sure—many of us made more money and had more of a certain kind of freedom than our mothers ever had.
But all the striving and competing and winning couldn’t fill the hole where our hearts should’ve been.
Because in the process of becoming independent, we hardened ourselves. We won respect for being willing to compete as vigorously as our male co-workers—we even got praised for being easy to work with because we were ‘just like guys’.
But the toughness that helped us survive in the fiercely competitive business world damaged our health and kept us disconnected from our souls.
And the men who were comfortable with their masculinity—men who wanted to bathe in balanced feminine energy—wouldn’t come near us.
Life left us feeling angry and sad and tired.
So very tired.
Our fatigue wouldn’t begin to ease until we decided to pause and acknowledge all our half-loves. And our hearts wouldn’t begin to heal until we’d confronted a vague sense of grief for all we’d lost.
Because for too long, we didn’t realise that living with a half-love can cause you to lose the best parts of yourself. Like your sense of purpose. And your connection to nature. And your passion.
Living with a half-love might look like staying in a corporate job you secretly hate while refusing to feel your heartbreak about what’s happening on our planet and telling yourself you’re doing all you can by sponsoring a child in Africa.
Or living in the inner city and filling your evenings with dance clubs, high fashion and three-hat restaurants while daydreaming about wide open green spaces and bare feet and your own vegetable garden.
Or staying in a relationship with someone you don’t really feel passionate about any more because he’s not aggressive, he has a well-paid job and he’ll make a good father…and because it’s unreasonable to expect more than that.
So how can we tell when it’s a half-love? Something won’t feel right. And no matter how much we try to ignore it, some part of our being will be trying to get our attention.
Maybe it’s the debilitating migraine headache that always arrives the week before our period.
Maybe it’s the minor frustration with our daily commute that’s actually major suppressed rage, because it has us quietly calculating revenge all the way to the office whenever someone elbows us out of the way to get the last seat on the packed morning train.
Or maybe it’s the way our chest ached and our eyes got wet when we saw that loved-up couple in the park holding hands and kissing passionately, because we suddenly realised how long it’s been since we did that.
Luckily for us, it’s never too late to play a different game. We can decide to live differently.
We can decide to listen carefully to that small voice we’ve been ignoring.
We can decide to make time for that thing we most loved to do—singing, dancing, painting, telling stories—when we were seven years old.
We can decide what we really want and make tiny brave moves towards it.
If we find the courage to focus less on the things we almost believed would fill us up, we’ll find the true nourishment that only comes from learning to love ourselves deeply.
Because one whole heart is worth more than a thousand half-loves.
Author: Belinda Noakes
Editor: Sarah Kolkka