I’ve been institutionalized now for 35 years.
It all started when I was sent to kindergarten at the sweet age of 4 1/2 (before the cutoff dates started). And it has lasted up to this point as a 40 year old adult teaching English at a public high school. Throughout these 35 years, I have felt at times like I was in a straight jacket – mostly because I chose to be the straight-laced kid who followed the rules, got good grades, did as my teachers and parents asked, and strived to be the best student in the whole entire school, or the state, the country, the world, nay, the universe. And I put that burden on myself as a teacher, too.
Stirring inside of me, however, was (and still is) a rebellious, free-spirited, creative soul longing for self-expression and connection. A longing to live sensually. To touch, taste, smell, see, hear the bounties of the earth and then artistically share the experience with others. To tap into emotions and open the heart and feel everything as deeply and fully and passionately as possibly and then release it to the universe with gratitude so as to keep experiencing the richness of the inner and outer world. To tread lightly (and preferably barefoot) on moss covered earth. To sink into the muddy earth on a hot summer day and let the mud squish and smear all over me. Then to dip into a cool stream after the sun has baked me and feel the weight of the mud (the weight of the world) slip off of my skin as the water cleanses my body. To dance like a wild gypsy. To sing and play like a child. To laugh like a cackling old crone who then tosses off her cloak to reveal a goddess. To draw. To write. To create. And to steal from my hero Henry David Thoreau: “. . . to live deep and suck out all the marrow in life.”
Yet, I chose to play it safe. Forces within me and forces outside of me kept telling me “Not yet” or “You’re creativity and ideas are too much for others to handle.” “You’ll be laughed at.” “You’ll be taken advantage of.” “People in our part of the world don’t act or think or talk or dress or express themselves like that. Hold it in and one day you can release it.”
These safety measures are no longer working for me.
I’m re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. The woman doesn’t mince words, and I’m grateful for that. One of the chapters is titled “Permission” and she mentions how it is our God-given write as human beings to be creative and live in a way that best supports that creativity. That is our permission slip. No need for validation. (By the way, creative living doesn’t only apply to self-proclaimed artists, writers, musicians. It’s for anyone who wants to march to the beat of their own drum and do what lights them up and follow the threads of their own curiosity.) She writes about creative entitlement in a positive light: “Creative entitlement doesn’t mean behaving like a princess, or acting like the world owes you anything whatsoever. No, creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that -merely by being here- you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.” Now that’s some powerful stuff. I want in on that. I’m taking the sentiment of her words as my metaphorical permission slip from the universe to get busy living a life I’ve always imagined.
A good friend told me once that when you free yourself, you free others. That may be true, but I honestly believe that when you free yourself, when you give yourself permission to be a creative force in the universe and to unearth hidden jewels buried deep inside of you, then your life becomes a playground, a treasure hunt, an epic quest filled with adventure, a life worth living. If it inspires others, so be it. But, I’m starting to learn you don’t have to live for other people’s sake. You don’t truly need permission to tap into who you are at your very core. You’ve been meant to discover that all along. This post isn’t about asking for permission from others. It isn’t even a way to reassure myself (or convince myself) that I am allowed to listen to my inner voice of strength, of intuition, of love. (Ok, maybe it is just a little bit.) If this post inspires others to begin unlocking hidden doors within themselves and following their path of creative living, then I’m really lucky to have been a part of that. And finally, this post isn’t about showing how I’m no more or less worthy than any other person. It’s just my time that’s all.
It’s my time to breathe fully and release what is no longer serving the person I’ve transformed into. My time to take off the tightly woven, itchy sweater of my life that is constraining and blocking my creative, sensual, earthy, talent-filled flow. And that’s scary because what I’m saying to the universe is: “Destroy so I can rebuild.” The earth is already quaking under my feet and all those inner and outer doubting voices are getting louder in my mind and in my daily encounters. But, so is the urge to destroy so I can rebuild.
I’ve decided to give myself permission to let it all crumble down, burn up, shape-shift, wash away, dissolve. For, there really is nothing to be scared of. (In theory. In practice I’m still a scaredy-cat some of the time. But that’s Ok.) When we pull weeds or cut back old growth in our garden, new and glorious living things arise and flourish. When we clean out our closets we open more space for new things to come in. When we toss things on the compost pile, organic material later nourishes our flower and vegetable beds. When blossoms scatter to the winds, fruit ripens and glistens in the sun.
I want to glisten in the sun.