As an adult, I have lived in a variety of places, sometimes moving from location to location in brief amounts of time. The moves have typically been spurred by reasons such as education, a relationship, a job, boredom, and desire for adventure…. At one point in my late-twenties, I had lived in seven states in seven years. This nomadic lifestyle coupled with my deeply hermit-like nature had me living alone (with the exception of about 8 mos when I lived in Denver with a good friend) from the time I was 18 until I was 37. And while it isn’t always the case, I have become incredibly comfortable being alone and on my own.
I realized this morning that because of the above reasons, I carry the assumption with me that wherever I go that I do not know anyone, and no one knows me. It’s just a basic assumption that I wear in my psyche … even to the point that I can be somewhere and someone will recognize me and call me out and I won’t even realize they are speaking to me until they are right in front of me…. I just assume when I hear someone say, “Hi, Jennifer”, that they are talking to someone else. There are a TON of Jennifers on the planet, so I assume I am not the one being spoken to. It feels incredibly comfortable and normal to me to be “invisible” in the world. Preferable, even.
But – I have lived in Lawrence now almost 6 years… (it’s crazy how quickly time passes!) It’s not a huge town… The first few years I lived here, I worked solely from home. It hasn’t been until somewhat recently that I’ve begun to get out and meet people beyond my little circle and sphere.
Sunday morning, I walked into an event, scanned the room, and realized that I knew six people in attendance at this particular event. As soon as I had this realization, a wave of terror and panic washed through my chest and my knees began to shake. My immediate inclination was to walk backwards through the door – as quickly and as quietly as I had entered through it – and take my leave. This immediate inner response was so surprising!…. Why was I so scared to be in a room of people where I knew six individuals in the room? Why was I so afraid of being somewhere where I knew others, and they knew me?
So instead of doing what my body wanted to do – run away – I closed my eyes and let myself feel my feet on the ground. I let myself feel into the panic and terror in my chest and I took a few moments to breathe.
A voice arose in my awareness that said, “Welcome, sweet one. Welcome.
Welcome, One Who is Known.
Welcome, One Who is Yet To Be Known.
Welcome, One Who is Known and Afraid to Be Known.
Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome.
In your being here, and in your being known, I wonder how wild and un-known you can be?”
And with this question, this invitation to let go – of any kind of ideas I had about who I am and who that is in relation to the ideas that I have of other people in the room – the fear and panic fell to the floor. I stepped into the invitation to be completely wild and unknown, even to my “known” self. And for a few moments, it was blissfully sublime…. And throughout the event I returned to the invitation and felt so comforted by it….
I’ve taken a bit of time to think about and digest the experience and what comes to me is that I have a fierce desire within myself to be free beyond any label or limit. And yet, there are places in my life where I have put myself into some kind of box. I sit in my chair and I am “therapist”. I lay in my bed and I am “wife”. I sit on my cushion and I am “student”….. I am all of these things, and so many more. And, I am also none of them. These are merely masks, clothes, hats or configurations that define a certain way of being that I choose to form myself into for periods of time during a day, but they are not ME. And I am not THEM. I am beyond all of that. But I do it -mark myself with a label – all the time. And my guess is, so do you.
Because I put myself in any kind of box, there naturally are rules that accompany my being there. And if there are rules, there are also opportunities to bend or break those rules. And if I bend or break a rule, then there can be a fear, judgement or blame that comes because of it. None of which feels good, at all. So the question comes, why step into any box at all?? Why do that to myself??? And then, if I don’t want to be in any kind of box, why put anyone else in one?
It feels like there is a lot more I could say about this, especially about being “therapist”, or “student”, or “teacher”…. Our society likes that we have definitions of how people function in roles so that we create safety and predictability.
And, in order to be fully human, to know myself beyond the mask, beyond the box, beyond the fears and judgements, rules have to be bent. Rules may even have to be broken or abandoned and any consequences faced…. But if those abandoned or broken boxes and rules are embraced with “You are welcome here”, what consequence could there be that could be so detrimental?
Such desire for freedom – freedom to do and say what I want, when I want, regardless of who does or does not witness or judge me – is soooo strong! And if I have this deep desire for freedom, I know that others have it, too.
I am completely committed to a life of “non-harm” to others. My having freedom does not mean I can physically, emotionally, or in any other way, hurt another being. But by my taking responsibility for my own wild being-ness, I offer the same to anyone else. This feels really important right now.
And so my invitation to you is, may you know yourself beyond masks, hats, robes or configurations. And in your ways of being known in the world, may you also know the freedom of being wildly unknown, even to yourself.