The heart against itself


I think it was Lord Byron who spoke about the “heart against itself,” a phenomenon that is one of the most painful, yet profound experiences a person can undergo. That phrase captures the emotional tangle I’ve felt the past 10 days involving confronting oneself, one’s failings, one’s blind spots (a phrase I’d like to find a synonym for). The first reaction is defense, then recognition and chagrin, finally gratitude for the insight.

In the first instance I made someone mad, and she rightfully let me know it, then (wrongfully) rolled her eyes to the others in the group. “Foul!” Can’t hear those eyes rolling, unless a friend “rats” to me. So, though I wronged, I felt vindicated because of her low blow…until I felt the same impulse in me in another situation to “sin” again. Aha! Sally, face it. You’re rude.

The second instance of Sally’s heart against itself came in a manuscript review. Many know I’ve been writing (for years) a biography about a blind man who also happened to be African-American. It’s changed genres several times, and finally I thought I’d found the genre that best captures the man. Now I’ve recently cast myself as a sensitivity reader for topics and characters who are blind and Deaf-blind. Reason: so many mistakes even in award-winning books. So, though I think anyone can write about anybody, empathy doesn’t come without a lot of work. So a lovely African-American friend read the ms and forthrightly pointed out possible erroneous conclusions that could be drawn in a few situations in the book. Ah, heart against itself— “but that’s not what I meant,” and “that’s exactly what the 6 volumes of research by the African-American who devoted her life’s work to the subject said…”

How I hate to feel stupid or worse, insensitive! How 13 I still am despite all the mistakes I make! But these are the growing pains I heard about in 8th grade, but these are emotional. I just didn’t expect them to last this long!


About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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2 Responses to The heart against itself

  1. Spoken from the heart.

    Body of a woman, soul of a child, mind of the free and heart of the wild.

    It is beyond a doubt that all of our knowledge starts with experiences.

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