When I saw this image a few days ago, it occurred to me that there were times in my life when I was so watered down that I was a like a storm drain through which torrents ran, carried downstream at a rapid pace. In the service of refraining from rocking the boat and not making waves; I didn’t want people to be uncomfortable. I was speaking with my friend Ondreah the other night as we were enjoying dinner at an outdoor café in New Hope, PA and I was telling her that there is embedded in me this thought that ‘I can’t inconvenience anyone.’ It translates to playing by the rules, being conscious, on time, keeping my agreements which on the surface all seem like admirable qualities. It is when they become obsessive that problems can ensue and I lose myself. When I was growing up, I had two competing impulses. One was to honor my unique and magical self who loved communing with faeries and who had fanciful ideas and the other was to fit in. I have clear memories of making observations and verbalizing them, only to be met with quizzical…”what planet is SHE from?” looks by my peers. Red faced, I would retreat into my imaginary haven and swear never to be that vocal again. Blessedly, that didn’t last long and I drew into my life, people who were of my ‘tribe’ who spoke the same language and engaged in similar musings.
I sense that this dynamic had its origins back when my asthma attacks woke my parents in the middle of the night, sending my mom and me into the bathroom so that I could breathe in lung expanding steam. Regular visits brought us to our family doc’s office where we would sit for what seemed like hours to have allergy tests, injections and check ups. Although my mom and dad never indicated in any way that I was a burden, I somehow internalized the belief that I was and so I endeavored to be a ‘good girl’ who became an overachiever so they wouldn’t need to worry about me. Combine that with the compulsion to prove that I wasn’t going to allow ANYTHING to slow me down, I embodied the lyrics to the song 1980′s Matthew Wilder hit Break My Stride.
“Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride. No body gonna slow me down….oh no, oh no. I got to keep on moving.” That mindset has kept me on the run from relationships, from much needed sleep, from opportunities, and from comfort in my own skin. It has had me overworking and underplaying, internally fretting; since I wouldn’t want anyone to know that I was less than self assured. Yesterday while at a drumming circle, one of my friends approached me and from behind her glowingly purple sunglasses, she exclaimed that my writing inspired her on days when she felt less than optimal. I laughed and told her that it had the impact on me too which is one reason I write. It is my therapy and testing ground for what I most need to heal in my own life.
It is when I know who I am, genuinely, transparently, noisily, silently, messily, prettily me that I can love her passionately and invite others to as well. I am and you are….
http://youtu.be/uj8C43r4zm0 I Am What I Am-Gloria Gaynor