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.
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