“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés
My wild self went missing a few years ago. Ok, who am I kidding, my wild self was kicked, pushed and screamed at until it went underground when I was a little girl around 3 or 4 years old. It stayed underground and behind locked doors because the world I grew up in was not safe for my wild self.
Growing up my wildness shined when I was playing alone or with my imaginary friends. I used to spend hours as a child creating magical kingdoms for my barbies out of sticks, leaves and dried grass. I used to sail away to far off lands like Turkey or China on dry patchy grass in the backyard in a boat I made of a cracked blue plastic wading pool I found in the dumpster the night before trash day. I used to wake early and color in the dim morning light picture after picture of gardens, fairies, dinosaurs and plants from other planets that ate hamburgers. My wild self has always lived behind the door of my creativity.
The wildness of my imagination was my solace and connection to something bigger than me. It was my essential self.
However, I quickly learned that this quirky, smart, curious and radiant self was some how not what my mother, my father, my teachers or even the other kids at school liked. Hell, it was more than they didn’t like my wild self, they detested it and did everything they could to stamp it out. These efforts to tame my wild self sowed the seeds of not good enough deeply into my growing cells and my young mind.
Over the years these seeds of feeling not good enough have become so deeply rooted that it is hard to tell where the message is coming from any more. Is it me? My past? My family? My culture? As a 44-year-old woman I recognize that I am my own worst enemy as I have internalized this hatred of my essential wild self.
This I know, it was them hating me but then it became me hating me. Sure people in my life and my culture still try to keep me in line but I do a great job of beating myself up—yelling and kicking my essential wild self into submission.
I do this when I resist the impulse run outside in the early morning and feel the wet dewy grass on my bare feet when I open the blinds to see the golden morning light. Or I tell myself I have to get ready for work, there is no time to read a Mary Oliver poem out loud. Or I tell myself to I don’t have time to pause and take a picture of the cloud floating just so in the sky when walking into the office. Or I don’t sing to myself while walking down the aisles of the grocery store. I know how to be good, right and appropriate in hopes of being good enough.
I have been a good girl. I have suited up and shown up, been brilliant and giving. I graduated college summa cum laude while going to school full-time, raising my special needs son and working almost full-time. I have overworked for bosses who no matter how much I do or how well I do it, will always want more and more. I have put my family first and myself last my entire life. I have pulled myself out of poverty and given my son stability. Despite all of my achievement and doing, my efforts never feel good enough, it seems there is always more and more wanted from me.
So now what? I will be honest, it is not like this is breaking news for me. I know this struggle well.
It is an everyday challenge to muster the courage to show up and create an environment for my essential wild self to shine, even if only a small spark. I know I thrive when there is space for this essential wild self in my life. Starting this blog has helped. Teaching other women how to connect with their hearts through creative writing workshops helps. Writing and drawing my heart stories helps. Letting the man I love see the vulnerable underbelly of my hurts and fears helps. These all help to open that door I locked so long ago.
But I want more space and room in my life for my essential wild self to shine. Hell, I want it to bloom and flourish, grow into a big tangled mass of fresh green growth and burst open that door where I hid it as a child.
I know that my job now as a middle-aged woman is to reclaim my wildness. To allow myself to spread wide and laugh deep. To have space in my life to wander in my studio or write poems that might not make sense to others. It is time to embrace mistakes and oh yes carry a little extra weight around my middle. To allow myself to do something just because I feel an urge and not for some marketable reason.
It is time for me to sing loudly in all areas of my life not just in the shower or while driving down the interstate at 80 miles an hour with the windows down. It is time for me to risk being seen not only to people in my life but more importantly, to myself. I am no longer a small child, ignored and forgotten expect when my mother hated herself so much she needed to yell at someone else.
It is time for me to honor my essential wild self with the same compassion and loving kindness I strive to give to the world. If I really want to be good enough then this is what I need to do.
The hard part is, it is good enough for me but not what I have been taught will make me good enough for others. For me this self-compassion and loving kindness is the hardest thing to do.
I am trying a little every day. So far so good—that door is opening inch by inch.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.
Playing with Buddha by Ira Sukrungruang – Love, love, love this essay. It is a well written and engaging personal essay about growing up with imaginary friends but more so it is about seeking connection to something larger than ourselves. It also is about embracing our essential wild self.
Want to Be Happy At Work? Care Less About It by Kelly O’Laughlin- As I wrote about last week, I am tend to be a 120% giver with almost everything I do. I can feel the anxiety rising just thinking about only giving 80%. I have been told by wise smart women that my 80% is probably others 100%. Plus over giving drains me so I can’t embrace my essential wild self.
Lost and Found Photographs by Michael Joseph- Mr. Joseph’s photographs are haunting and tell a story of travelers in America, many of whom I would argue have not lost their wild selves. I don’t think we need to become travelers to embrace our essential wild self.
Abstract Artist Dianna Wooley- Dianna works in encaustic and and wrote this post as part of Deb Smouse’s Summer Love Notes. Her work reminds me of my own abstract painting and drawing which has been calling me again.
Achieve More By Doing Less by Christine Carter- Here is a simple easy to read way to see the myths we often live by, the truths, and what I like best, the turnarounds to living the myths of doing more.
Detroit’s Foreclosure Meltdown– I couldn’t help but share this series of articles by the Detroit News digging into the foreclosure crisis in Detroit. I found myself spending hours reading it on Saturday morning. It is stunning and this really shows the impact of greed and mismanagement. Honestly, what is happening in the neighborhoods of Detroit is heartbreaking, so many people lost and gone. Seriously, how does it make sense for a house that sold for $82,000 in 2002 in a neighborhood with no vacant homes to now appraise for $5,000 and be one of two homes on the block still occupied, the rest of the homes, vacant and stripped. Not sure if it is fixable.
Finally, a printable handout about self-care to hang on your fridge, “Everything is Awful and I’m not okay” Questions to ask before giving up. This is a great check list to help when you feel like the world is pushing in on you and you can’t breathe. Good self-care.
May you embrace your essential wild self in small and big ways this week. ~ Kira
*the photograph is of me in art school and shows a time in my life when I was showing more of my essential wild self. It was taken by a friend of mine whom I can’t remember her name. Sorry.