Allow Love to Love

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

—Mary Oliver

For too many years I lived according to what other people thought or told me I was supposed to do or what I was supposed to love. Quite crazy, these ever-changing expectations swirled around me. The rat-a-tat firing of all the rules, regs, edicts included how I should laugh like a lady instead of a honking, snorting, fall on the floor belly laughing seal, stand up straight, eat my soup with a teaspoon, be more like my brother even though I was a girl (for starters), never tell the neighbors about what really happened in this house because gosh, what would the neighbors actually think?!?!, wear panty hose, cross your legs, never ever have sex outside of marriage or outside -anywhere-actually just don’t have sex-ever, exercise, don’t sweat because only horses sweat, don’t ever be fat, don’t ever be super skinny, eat blue fruits on Fridays and only green vegetables, don’t eat sugar, eat prunes because they help you poop, shower with one leg over the tub, wear the clothes your tribe wears-in fact, put on this skirt that I’ve been wearing since 1950-we’ll alter it to fit you, use the cutlery we use, don’t frown, play the piano exactly like your sister, put on the jewelry our tribe wears, hang this artwork, and only ever use this teapot, earn straight A’s, perform perfectly, always. “Look good for me, for the picture, the pretense our group, company, organization (fill in the blank of the tribe) of how we want to be perceived out in the world!!” An unspoken, clear directive leaks out between the tiny wisps of silence.

You get the idea. You are covered in Post-It notes, buried by them!

I believe at least some of you know the experience of trying on a coat that simply does not fit you. Yet, you’ll pay good money, saunter out of the store, and walk around feeling utterly uncomfortable until a brave soul gently gives you some much-needed feedback or you actually pause to feel your truth or look in a mirror. Even then, you might persist in wearing the ill-fitting coat because of something. You can also get busy doing activities that steal your soul. You might even become invisible to yourself in the midst of the constant firing off of the suction-cupped rubber darts of familial, societal, or social media expectations.  Now covered in orange and yellow short plastic poles or burrs stuck on the Velcro of your being, you lose sight of your own tastes, preferences, deep loves, and aspirations. These unique wants might even disappear so completely that you have no clue what you love, what you like, what you really want to do with this life you’ve been given. You might forget why you are here. Dazed, confused, exhausted you stumble about like a weary traveler needing to binge-watch “Friends” episodes or binge on– you have your favorites.

Making a different choice can occur “unconventional” “unacceptable” or “outlandish.” Fierce warnings of “Don’t you dare break ranks” with threats of severe backlash might keep you in that rock in a hard place. It becomes their way or take the highway of looking for someone to give you a ride because you’ll be a stranded person seeking shelter, a bowl of hot food. Real threats of being “cut off” from basic needs of food, shelter, support, money, twisted “affection” remain to create a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” suffocating situation. You believe you must conform or face certain struggles walking on that long unknown, uncertain, lonely, “kicked out of the tribe” path.

The good news: While definitely a brave choice, and undoubtedly full of challenges, you can gently or fiercely break free to “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

One step at a time you can take your aspirations out of the deep freeze, discover your preferences like the glistening treasures they are because you will feel amazingly better. In your brave hands, you can gently hold what you’ve always loved. That inner emotional GPS (gut producing signals) will show the way to the warmer, feels better, and maybe even a delicious, if not a different kind of wild heart fluttering with anticipation “scary” place of home in your own soul. An unrecognizable reality unfolds as you allow yourself to simply love the belongings you love and let go of the rest, eat the food that agrees with your body, wear the clothing that makes you feel confident and comfortable, and engage the activities that make your heart sing. Shining brighter with greater vitality and life force flowing, you can express your passions and love who you love.

You can live very much alive and savor the experience of being on this big blue planet as you walk away from all that was never yours, never you, or not your path. This life simply is not about being “good’ or “proper” or “nice.”   This brave journey towards liberation takes time and many micromovements. It’s well worth the breathing room of being free.

May you live free to “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

May you find your brave and your free.

May you fall in love with the miracle of being alive and being uniquely you.

~Inspired by the poem: Wild Geese by Mary Oliver



Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. Oh my, Laura! What a range of emotions you’ve unleashed with this piece! How is it that you can write in such a way that makes me feel like you’ve been inside my head?! Thank you for sharing this one. I’ve been there… in that ill-fitting coat… trying to make it fit or ignoring that it doesn’t for a million reasons or just one. Your timing here is spooky as I’m currently re-reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. One of the points that she makes that really resonates with me is trading authenticity for approval and honoring our struggles by sharing them with people who are worthy of learning about them. This piece is just what I needed to read to understand that construct of “liberation” and the “breathing room of being free.”

    So, so good…. thank you!

    • Oh, you are so welcome, Melissa. I absolutely love the work of Brene Brown-all her books keep opening my heart and life. I keep discovering the power of vulnerability, honest and the sinking ship of shame-that seems to be lifting off my soul with every essay I compose or brave interaction I have with another supportive, loving, healthy, “growing in self-awareness” human being. We are in the messy of life together learning to be free to be ourselves, to risk rejection, to actually be rejected, to live in that wilderness until we happily connect with others who have been there too-maybe are there right now. Being human continues to be quite an adventure. Thank you so much for what you continue to see, offer, and realize. I’m very grateful we are connected-learning from each other-seeing things in new ways! You are a gift.

  2. Laura, I am not quite sure what you mean by liberation. Life is indeed about being nice, good and proper and respectful. There are rules we must all follow. As far as love goes we need to love as much as possible but we can’t love everybody. Thank you for writing and sharing your article.

    • I hear your confusion, Joel. Yes, there’s a difference between ideas that have us be decent human beings and ideas that keep us separate from one another-judged or belittled or demeaned by other people. Finding common ground in a genuine kindness that comes from the heart and not imposed from rigid rules seems to be a part of what I mean by “liberation.” A freedom to express your love, your preferences, and ideas minus the limiting beliefs that might keep you silent or scared of punishment. Does that help? I do respect your idea that we “love as much as possible but we can’t love everybody.” That definitely is my experience. I can hold much compassion for those I struggle to “love.” I appreciate your honest thoughts, your willingness to voice your uncertainty about what I meant by “liberation.”

  3. Laura, as many times as I’ve read this piece, this one sentence is like a magnet, constantly pulling my eyes back to it: “Covered in orange and yellow short plastic poles or burrs stuck on the Velcro of your being, you lose sight of your own tastes, preferences, deep loves, and aspirations.” Every time I read it I experienced the same rush of emotions: First, the pain of remembering, the sadness of being judged, and the empty ache of knowing time was being lost. Second, the joy of finding myself, setting a course, beginning a lifelong journey of discovery and finally learning — finally learning — you don’t have to travel alone.

    We are blessed to be sharing this journey with so many people in this community. I’m blessed to be sharing my journey with you. And I’m blessed to be having you share your journey with me. To paraphrase Robin Williams, “Self-faith. What a concept.”

    Thank you. For all of it, thank you.

    • Oh, Mark-You’ve absolutely captured that cascade of emotions-pain, sadness, empty ache as well as the joy you’ve discovered in finding yourself-and others who share that courageous journey. YES!! And what a relief and blessing to realize we are no longer travel alone!! I celebrate you-us. I, too, am blessed to connect in this heartfelt, knowing place of no need for a translator. First relinquishing the edicts that didn’t fit and then reclaiming these “lost parts” or “silenced” parts that weren’t allowed to speak a preference continues to be very intriguing. I understand why adults (especially those with “lost childhoods”) engage in creative activity-improv, acting, sculpting, drawing, coloring, dancing, laughing, giggling-to experience-maybe for the first time- that delight and awe of being alive and a freer human being. Some of these activities may not be for everyone. Some of my happiest moments in my adult life include the rolling on the floor belly laughing-snorting and honking. I remember learning that my son loved my laugh-said it was one of his favorite things about me. Wow.

      Yes, what a rich blessing indeed to connect from our words, these articles and stories shared-with all the folks on this platform-to walk together on this life journey with other brave and wonderful people. Thank you so much for all you’ve contributed here as once again-I do not feel alone. I know that I wasn’t the only one to navigate some- Woh-stuff.

      All the best to you in this week ahead, Mark! I appreciate you very much.

    • “I understand why adults (especially those with “lost childhoods”) engage in creative activity-improv, acting, sculpting, drawing, coloring, dancing, laughing, giggling-to experience-maybe for the first time- that delight and awe of being alive and a freer human being.”

      Laura, in that sentence you’ve affirmed my faith that wonder need not be limited to children. We can all re-connect with — re-discover and re-possess — our senses of wonder … if we dare. And that affirmation reminds me of this passage from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road:

      “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’”

      It’s never to late to join the mad ones.

  4. Laura, thank you for sharing this piece with us and opening the window for our minds to percolate. You’ve provided helpful insight into how each of us can connect with our authentic self by releasing some of the constraints we’ve imposed over the years. As I get older, I realize what matters, and it is the connection with mind, body, and spirit that helps me grow and enables me to let go of old ways and welcome new beginnings. While not always an easy feat and at times slow going, the evolution is worth the journey.

    • Laura– how empowering to realize that “what matters…is the connection with mind, body, and spirit” that helps you “grow and let go of old ways and welcome new beginnings.” Beautiful. Yes. The inner work continues to be very empowering and freeing. Living from the inside out with greater clarity feels much better. Thank you so much for your meaningful contributions to this discussion.

  5. Dear Laura, At first I laughed out loud because of humor you injected around over expectations. Next, I scored your exquisite writing that took a more serious note. Yes, we need to eliminate those messages to love, as we unveil, our authentic selves. Thank you!💖

    • Oh, Darlene! I’m really happy you enjoyed the humor in this one. Sometimes the shedding of limiting beliefs requires a first step of seeing how utterly ridiculous some of them are-and laughing. Emerging as our true selves can be quite a process. Thank you so much for all these kind and thoughtful reflections.