Mother may I? I always hated that game. Other than the very obvious reminder of who was the boss of me in my life, the game always felt shaming to me. Yes yes, I know. Shame is my go-to emotion so shame is often where I end up. But the mother may I game always seemed so subjective so capricious, so opprobriuous. If the person in power had a hair across their ass (as my own mother often did) you were screwed and not getting permission to go anywhere; having nothing at all to do with your skill or talent or persistence or intelligence or cunning or worth. Basically, permission was granted in that game based on some little bastard’s momentary whim. No wonder I hated it.
I’ve been doing some thinking about permission and personal authority lately. I’ve always, rather understandably, had issues with authority. I’ve also always, also understandably, had very low personal authority agency in my life. But personal authority and permission are areas in which I seem to be shifting, growing, changing. Ever slightly, ever slowly. In the reading I’ve done, the upshot seems to be that many of us spend at least the first half of our lives figuring out how to navigate the rules and regulations of the world around us sometimes at the expense of nurturing the spirit of our natural selves. As a child, my dependence and vulnerability obliged me to meet the demands the environment I was born into imposed on me. Permission and proscription were based solely on other already established external limits and channels. Even though many of those demands didn’t make sense, were stupid, were not in my best interest or were counter to my intrinsic being. I spent so much time and energy adapting, conforming, molding, folding, manipulating and basically crushing my inherent, essential, natural-self into the pretense, illusion and masquerade persona defined by my family, culture, society I didn’t have time to consider who I really was or what I really wanted. In doing that, along with learning about playing by the rules, I deeply learned the lesson that the real me, who I really was, needed to be buried, squelched, smothered. The message stated was that the real me was an embarrassment to my mother.
Carl Jung said that all our troubles stem from one place–the separation from our instincts. What?! I’ve just spent close to 50 years bending, writhing, contorting away from my instincts and my self and now Jung is saying that my separation from my self is the source of all my troubles?! You’re shitting me, right? One article I read suggested that the task of the second half of our lives, should be the discovery and recovery of our true nature and establishing and mobilizing the personal authority to follow that truth. But gathering the courage to know that truth, to trust that truth and to live that truth in the world is, well, sort of daunting. It sounds so much simpler than it is. I’ve spent half a lifetime adapting myself in order to navigate and fit into the world in the established (by others) ways in order to succeed (whatever that means) because the person I naturally am is unacceptable. And it isn’t that the person I’ve learned to be is such a bad person. It just isn’t the deeper me, the authentic me, the whole me. The discrepancy between who I have been taught to be and who I really am has been chafing me for a while now. I want to spend the second half of my life undoing, untangling and emerging from all that bullshit and figuring out who the hell I am as a whole integrated being!
Sometimes I feel as though I’m figuring that out in relationship – being married to Emily and parenting Joita and Nina. I think Emily and I have a good relationship. I hope that she would agree. We get along well and navigate the ups and downs that any relationship has. I noticed a few weeks ago the push/pull we have when it comes to personal authority. Actually, between you and me, Emily has no lack of personal authority. In fact, she might even say that I don’t need to have so much personal authority because she has enough personal authority for both of us… nice try babe 🙂 But she does give me the room to find my own and we work together for equilibrium. She doesn’t let me slink away from what I really know or really want. She pushes me to know my truth and to speak it. And truth be told, while she does have a fair amount of personal authority herself, she is not always so completely sure and looks to me to help her find her balance. We are a good team that way.
The other way I’ve been trying to cypher this separation from my self is that lately in my meditation I have been playing with Tonglen. Not so much breathing in the pain and misery, but breathing in preparing a space for what I have termed just me to enter, to emerge, to be. In that space of just me, I am working to suspend judgment, not being right or wrong, allowing my self to just be. And just breathing that in. And in the moment or two when I hold that just me without judgment and let my self just be, I breathe that acceptance out to all the others who are trying to grasp onto and believe in who they really are, sending out to each of them the momentary space to just be. And once again and still, I am awed, knowing I am not alone, and I breathe for all of us.