I grew up with feminism, Cindy Crawford and Martha Stewart. Middle class, educated, and upwardly mobile. I was taught to look pretty, be smart, go to college, be successful and start a family. My generation was expected to have it all, do it well and look perfect as we were executing the impossible.
And I did it. I followed that map to the very last stop, arrived at the “destination” and took a good long look around. It’s not a bad place. But is sure as fuck isn’t Nirvana. And it isn’t at all what they told me I’d find. Right now I’m standing in the impossibly long line, waiting to get on the Jersey Shore Ferris wheel that is middle life, and I’m pretty goddamned sure that I don’t want to do that.
So watch me hop out under the ropes, tuck my kid under my arm and strike out on my own. Sorry, folks. I may not be the canoe-down-the-Amazon type of adventurer, but you can surely bet I’m not the spend-my-life-in-Disney-World kind. Everything I have found at the end of that map is just an opportunity to end up on the hamster wheel, and while I wish somebody had told me this long, long ago, que sera, I know now.
Please come with me.
What we are doing as a people is not who we are. The things we worry about are not authentically ours. Life is much simpler and so much deeper than how we think of it. Don’t you feel it? That burning urge to break free? I do. It is screaming all around me and within me and I can hear it in almost everybody I talk to. We are tired of being told what to do, be, and expect. The pressure is intense, but the more we fight, the harder it gets.
So I’m learning that the key isn’t to fight, but rather to roll. Just as when a wave takes you under, instead of fighting for surface, you let go and surrender. Once the fury has passed, then you break surface take a deep breath and swim on. Easy, no. Liberating, yes. The world is full of people in the wave, desperate for shore. I’m telling you that the shore is an illusion. It’s the Ferris wheel, and with every rotation your chains get tighter. You want the ocean, full of mystery and opportunity and life.
Surrender is hard, and believe me, I haven’t mastered it. But I have learned that the first step is identifying where you are being told what is ‘right’, and what you should ‘expect’. Every image that tells you how you should ‘look’ and every story that shows you what is ‘happy’ is a dot on the map to slavery. I have found that every time I face internal conflict, every time I feel unsettled within myself, I can dig just a little bit and find a cultural program holding me down. The more I look, the more astounded I am.
Truly, only you know what is ‘right’ for you, and as long as it doesn’t hurt others, its good. ‘Expectation’ is the mother of disappointment, so expect nothing. You ‘look’ the way you look, and my question to you is: Why don’t you believe that is good enough? ‘Happy’ is just one of the many emotions available to us, and there sure as shit isn’t one way that it manifests. Each human is indeed a unique snowflake, and we deserve the right to orient our lives around that.
The amount of energy I have wasted chasing the culturally perfect body angers me now. I’m furious that being a beautiful woman of a certain age isn’t enough. That my grace isn’t enough, my wisdom isn’t enough. But it really is. My body is mine alone; it doesn’t belong to the culture. Your body is yours and it is an amazing creation of spirit.
How painful to realize the suffering I have caused and endured by forcing the norm of the ‘perfect relationship’. The amount of time and energy used pushing things into lines makes me want to weep. I can no longer allow my relationships to serve the culture. I never should have; it’s just not right. Now my love serves love, and it can look however it must to remain love. Your love is yours and it can be whatever it needs to be to fill you. Spread it far and wide and share it with whomever you please.
This pushing and shoving and steering happens across the board and not a one of us is safe from it. This means you are successful. This means you are productive. This means you have value. And while it isn’t often said that this means you are a failure, the implication is there. The judgment hides in the spaces between this and that. At every step of your life, you are fed the steps you should take to become a person of worth. You are told in a hundred subliminal ways that this is how you should be, and if you follow the line you will get where you want to go. Only, it isn’t really where you want to go, is it? Did anybody ever actually ask you?
Fuck that shit. Just fuck it right now.
Listen to me and hear me good. There is no safety on shore. The map you are following will not take you to health, happiness and bliss. It is the road to nowhere, and if you keep walking that road you will end up exactly there. We as a people need explorers, bold humans of spirit willing to set sail and make new maps. Be one. I know that it is scary out there and heading off into the yonder with no destination seems like a mighty tall order. But believe me when I tell you that the moment you stop following the norm, your inner compass springs to life. True North rings like a clarion call.
You know. You’ve known all along. Beneath all the noise is one true voice. And sometimes all it takes is one voice to turn the tide. For the love of God….