It’s not worth anything,
More than this at all.
I’ll live as I choose,
Or I will not live at all.
So return to where you come from,
Return to where you dwell,
Because harassment’s not my forte,
But you do it very well.
I’m free to decide,
I’m free to decide,
And I’m not so suicidal after all.
I’m free to decide,
I’m free to decide,
And I’m not so suicidal after all,
At all, at all, at all.
Cranberries, Free to Decide
So yesterday I was completely uninspired to write, and I decided to accept that rather than posting more fluff, or forcing myself to address something when I was in the wrong mood. That’s fine, as far as it goes, I think, but I am finding myself in much the same place today. I have a whole list of eminently practical articles that I intend to write, but I’m just not feeling practical. So what to do?
A week or so ago, Nicola asked the question “What do you want for Christmas.?” In the comments, I said something about “Wanting permission to do what I really want with my life.” She noted, quite rightly, that this was a gift that I needed to give to myself. This just ran through my mind and I realize that recent events in my life may be bringing me much closer, and perhaps much more quickly than expected, to a place where I can do just that.
On it’s face, the whole proposition seems pretty bizarre. And, of course, I wrote it a bit flippantly at the time, but I think perhaps it was my subconscious speaking up. I think it is a reflection of the societal pressures we all feel even me, although I like to consider myself above all that to at least appear to go along with the norms.
My honey and I talked about this some last night in reference to our discussions about polyamory. According to society, it is a far better (proper, righteous, moral…) to be in a monogamous relationship, perhaps ‘cheat’ on that relationship, and be coy, closed and dishonest about it all, than to have an open and honest relationship that includes discussing feelings about sexuality, lust and love outside of the marital relationship. And forget actually acting on any of those discussions.
Of course, this is not the only realm where this massive disconnect occurs. I think various realms of sexuality are the most obvious, honesty being just one singular example, and perhaps one of the more important. But there are certainly others. Better to work a job that you hate, but that pays well, rather than admit that what you really want to do is paint. Better to let our kids find their own way into adulthood, sexuality and relationships than to speak with them openly and honestly from childhood onward.
I remember, back when my honey and I first got involved, I was sharing a rental with a friend who had a young son — two or three at that time, I believe. At some point, she became very upset with us, because in the evening I would lay on his lap, snuggle, or snooze, on the couch — and so we were exposing her son to things he should not see. I was completely flummoxed. Was she honestly telling me that she believed it was wrong for her son to see two adult humans in a healthy, loving relationship? After all, we were not getting naked, and we were not doing anything sexual, yet, that simple closeness and comfort was threatening to her world view.
Then, of course, I take it to the next level. For most of the time humans have existed, children and parents slept together in the same small space, from infancy through adolescence, at least. And yet, people were still making babies through all that time. Did this really scar our children to be exposed to sexual behavior? I have to think not. After all, we kept having more babies.
But what this all comes down to — although I honestly believe that most of this societal pressure is little more than a crock of s*** — is that I am still affected when it comes down to living openly. I can throw off the shackles when it comes to my own actions: but I feel great trepidation when it comes down to letting my family, neighbors, acquaintances be aware of my behavior and beliefs. Of course, neighbors and acquaintances really don’t matter, except in relation to how my child is treated. And soon he will be old enough to stand on his own two feet in that regard (I have been very proud, that since he was eight years old, he has embraced my inherent tendency to question assumptions, throw away stupid expectations and just be who he is. The first time he came home and proudly announced ‘I’m a nerd!’ was a beautiful moment in my mind. And I believe that he has expounded upon that ever since.)
But then there is family. The sexual component is hard, particularly, because I see my family as being quite repressive in that regard. I’ve spent a lot of years putting my childhood into perspective and shucking off the assumptions given to me by my parents. However, I have always, indirectly, made it clear that I do not share their mores, so I expect in many ways they will take on a don’t ask — don’t tell, mentality.
But worse is the community component. And perhaps this is where I still need to work on myself. I can see some of the things I want to do being perceived, first, as idealist. This I can deal with, because many people have perceived my drives as idealism: but I know they are not and I can express that if given enough time. Even to those that do not agree, I can feel comfortable in myself knowing that as I explored the ideas with them, even if they chose not to see what I see, I come to see it even more clearly. Heck, I guess that just says that I feel confident in my own world view and my own process of constructing and developing that view.
Harder than that, however, is work ethic. I have a strong work ethic, from my family, and I have always been proud of that fact. I still am. However, I also see that sometimes this work ethic is nothing more than a chain, tethering us to a lifestyle that we find unfulfilling, pointless or mean. Why should I feel proud after spending ten hours of my day shuffling papers back and forth, in pursuit of other pieces of paper that I can then trade for crap that I don’t need or want? Especially when I know that all those papers being pushed around further adds to the degradation of the world around me, with very little, if any, tangible benefit to people or the rest of the community of life. I want to feel proud for other reasons: for building real relationships within that community of life: both with other humans and non-humans. I want to feel proud for creating something new or unique today, for sharing something important with others, for teaching our children something that will make their lives more than they otherwise would have been. These are the moments that add value to the world. And in adding value to the world, they add value to me.
So when I say I want ‘permission,’ I think this is a gift I need to give myself: permission to face those remaining demons, to tackle the hard job of making my life choices okay in my families eyes. Even if they never understand my choices, even if they never understand me, I need to at least try to make that connection. And that means being prepared to travel the hard road — and it means being prepared for the possibility that the road may dead end.
(Originally Posted December 15, 2006)