At some point, I dedicated my life to the study and cultivation of wholeness, a dedication that birthed out of my own need to have space to be all of me.
Born into a cultural framework that didn’t make room for the full range of my humanity, that didn’t include my confusion and my doubt, my pettiness, my lust, or my rage, I found myself feeling squashed, denying pieces of myself, and working really hard to brush my not so nice, shiny, happy, socially-acceptable parts under the rug. It was utterly fragmenting, and the total opposite of wholeness.
I recently confronted another layer of the subtle and insidious, yet violent and overt self-squashing that happens when I feel inwardly (or outwardly) pressured to always get it right. Not long after, I received this beautiful reminder from David Whyte during a talk he gave about the Mary Oliver poem Wild Geese that starts with the line “you do not have to be good”.
He says, “if there is goodness in the world it comes from our rubbing ourselves up against life and testing ourselves against it and making lots of mistakes and falling down flat, and doing bad things thinking we’re doing good things, doing good things thinking we’re doing bad things, and making sense of it from the greater perspective of one’s own personal destiny and intuitions of where we’re supposed to go in the world.”
Such radical permission to be a human, to fuck it up, to learn through trial and error, and follow our own inner imperatives about how we need to act and be in service of those things that go beyond what others may understand or perceive about our behaviors, motives and intentions.
The next day I read these words on a friend’s Facebook page, and another wave of relief and permission washed over and settled inside me.
“I have made choices in my life that other women in the same circumstances may not have made. But I am not other women. Or another woman. I am myself. I owe the world no explanations. I only owe it my own walk in dignity. I am a fierce protector of Life. And sometimes that protection has taken the form of saving myself instead of another or the relationship.”
Another deep exhale.
Even if the intention is to remain in integrity, to show up fully and skillfully, it doesn’t mean that we always can or do. Sometimes we behave badly and fuck it up. Sometimes we’re reactive, and lack bandwidth, or are a hot mess. Let’s own it and not pretend otherwise.
I’m not advocating intentional meanness or violence or cruelty, but sometimes we need to follow our impulses and find out through experience what’s right and what isn’t, what works and what doesn’t. We need permission to be adult learners, who can fumble and be messy sometimes.
I’d rather be whole than one dimensional and only show the world one face. I’d rather be dynamic and take risks, than be gracious and agreeable all the time. But it’s all kinds of edgy because it touches on the most primal, deep rooted fear that if I don’t show up the way others want me to, I might lose love, or belonging, or business, or my reputation. Even though there is truly no way around being liked by some and disdained by others, or avoiding people’s projections about me for better or for worse. So I may as well be free to be all of me – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be a full range human being, with blind spots, and flaws, and just be real and fallible and a bitch sometimes, or the perception of one. I want those parts to be included too. Otherwise I feel like a caged animal, relentlessly judgmental of myself about how I “should be”, and way less tolerant or forgiving of others when they mess up or just plain disappoint me.
So today I am embracing my ass-wholeness, because wholeness is best, even when I’m not at mine!
“Wholeness is not, as the word implies, a state of completion at the end of a long dedication to attainment. Rather, it is a channel into which we can always tune. It just so happens that our ability to remain in reception of its broadcast can take a lifetime to master.” Toko-pa