“I have often worked with people we would consider extremely accomplished by external standards but inwardly have never particularly felt permission to be who they really are; permission to feel what they really feel; permission to desire what they desire with their life and to pursue that. And therefore they become maybe very adept at serving the ideas and values that were given to them by their family of origin or their culture, but again, the wedge within their own psychological reality is driven deeper and deeper and deeper. And the distress goes straighter.”
“It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive.
In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities.”
— Mary Oliver
I won’t pretend that I can tell you how to be you. I can only alert you to the dangers of a world that encourages you to try to be what you are not and can’t be. A good psychotherapist tries to help people step way from the project of making themselves acceptable to an impossible standard. Adjusting yourself to a neurotic and even criminal society is a kind of soul suicide that is all too common.
If you have never thought to question what holds our world together, from “education,” to work, to family and community, to religion to business to what and how we eat, you may not realize the forces arrayed against your soul.
If you are a natural mechanic of some system by which the world maintains itself, you won’t have to resist quite so forcefully. But if you are a natural artist, writer or philosopher, you need to peer into yourself and discover what threatens your soul and avoid it like the plague.
You will be charged with cultivating your own inner garden. That project requires that you stand up for your truest most sensitive self. If you have been effectively directed away from yourself, you might need to meet with a person trained to spot signs of the essential self. Many people try to grow in barren soil because that’s what they know. That’s what they’re conditioned to, but it takes someone else to point it out.
If you’re a dreamer you’ll be criticized for not having your feet on the ground, but if dreaming is your nature, no matter how you sweat and strain, those feet are never going to stay on the ground for long. Do what you have to to survive, but realize that the ether is your natural habitat. That’s where you think genius thoughts and create astounding beauty.
There are plenty of people better equipped to make the world go round. Let them do it. Stick with what you love, for no other reason than you love it.
I don’t say it will be easy, but believe it or not it will be easier than trying to be something you can never be.