Two Hearts

By Laila Barr

Last week, I dropped my son Alex off at his preschool for the last time. It was a day I’d been both looking forward to and dreading for several weeks. It signaled the end of an era for our family – we’ve been enrolled in the center since January 21, 2008 – the day our oldest son Michael turned 6 months. He had just mastered the art of sitting up. These days, Michael’s working on things like algebra and pitching and making his own scrambled eggs.

Now, I have a bit of a reputation for being emotional and sentimental. Perhaps overly-so. It’s just how I’m wired. One moment I’m filled with excitement at the new things my boys are learning and doing, or I’m filled with gratitude for the time I’ve been able to spend hanging out with my boys on Mommy Friday. The next moment I’m filled with grief that Mommy Fridays have come to an end. I suppose I could go to the trampoline park or roller rink or hit the rides at Nickelodeon Universe by myself on my day off, but it just won’t be the same.

I was feeling torn. And so it has been with all of the transitions I’ve faced – in parenting and otherwise. There’s always gift and challenge, and I’ve always experienced profound grief over the loss associated with change (even positive change) as well as profound gratitude for the gifts that change brings – both of which bring me to tears.

I’d always felt torn between these seemingly opposite emotions. Then one transformational moment in Berlin gave me a framework for living in and moving through transition. The last stop on our tour of Berlin was at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It’s a mixture of the ruins of the original church, surrounded by new modern structures. Our tour guide explained that the original church had been badly damaged in a bombing raid in World War II. He said that there was great controversy over what to do with the ruins. Some people wanted to leave the ruins as they were as a testament to the horrors of war, and some wanted to completely demolish the ruins and build something new from scratch. 


Then our tour guide said, almost to himself, “I have two hearts in my chest about this.” Meaning, he felt both ways – felt equally drawn to both, seemingly opposite points of view.

In English, when faced with conflicting emotions or ideas, we often say, “Part of me feels this way, and part of me feels that way.” We come to feel torn and dis-integrated, like we should pick one and stay the course.

What if, instead of being torn by conflicting emotions or ideas, we adopt the German phrase, “I have two hearts in my chest about this?” Instead of part of us feeling one way and part of us feeling another, what if our whole selves are being fueled and fed by all of the hearts in our chests?

Perhaps that’s the key to moving through transition, the key to moving through life as an integrated whole: to simply hold space for and honor those emotions and ideas that seem to be in opposition with one another, to allow them to be what they are, to recognize the importance of all the hearts beating in our chests – bringing us through each moment into new life.