IT HURT BUT it had to be done—your quirks needed snipping. Your peers taught you that. Their eye rolls and snide remarks made clear your idiosyncrasies weren’t welcome.
Do you remember the curious and wild kid you once were?
My friend Maggie was like that. At fourteen years old, she was still resisting peer pressure, doing things like making funny faces and animal noises, dancing little happy dances. A small but important moment one summer afternoon changed that.
I was reminded of Maggie this week because of the marvelous wildness Gay Pride brought out in Seattleites.
Steven and I ate lunch near Seattle Center. Seated outside in the warm air, enjoying the kaleidoscope of self-expression swirling around us, I wished our sidewalks were crowded with such colorfulness all summer.
Maggie, a long time ago, also spent a colorful summer afternoon outdoors. She was at a street bazaar, walking along stalls of handmade jewelry and watercolor paintings. Silk dragon-shaped kites bobbed and crackled in the breeze. She loved the atmosphere! As she was wont to do, she closed her eyes, spread her arms and twirled around. This time, an unexpected jerk on her elbow brought her to a stop.
She opened her eyes and saw a blue uniform in front of her. She looked up into the face of a policeman.
“Are you high?” he demanded to know.
“I’m…I’m not,” she sputtered, surprised and a little scared.
Holding on to her elbow, he grilled her for her name, where she lived, and why she had behaved like that.
“You look high,” he insisted.
“I don’t do drugs!”
The officer bent down and stared at her pupils. He released her reluctantly.
“Dancing on the sidewalk is a hazard. It’s not allowed.”
It probably wasn’t even true. Yet, this small experience changed Maggie; she doesn’t remember ever dancing around on the sidewalk after that.
Because humans are herd animals, most of us naturally fall in line, together forming a shared cultural identity to which we become deeply attached and protective of.
Unless a culture is made of fire breathers, acrobats and circus clowns, we tamp down too much self-expression as that cop did with Maggie. Once he ascertained she wasn’t high, wouldn’t it have been nice if he’d smiled and said, “Carry on,” rather than chastise her?
Instead, it’s snip, snip, snip wildness into perfect topiaries. Crop those identities until our culture approves.
Yet, our herding and conforming is only a part of a greater reality beyond the material world I have personally experienced. Called the lovely “ground of all being” in Hinduism, the divine gives rise to unlimited diversity from which to fashion ourselves: quirky, creative, imagination, unique. In the all-ness of our divine nature every expression is allowed, nothing is a threat because divine love draws a circle large enough to include everything and everyone.
What if we focus more on loving than on our complicated feelings about difference? Will we stop fearing otherness? Will we, instead, find a sweet clarity that lets us see the divine spark in each other? If so, perhaps this shared divinity is a greater comfort than conformity could ever be.
The next time you reign yourself in, suppressing a guffaw or witticism you fear is too queer for the company you keep, see if you can’t let it happen with a twinkle or a wink. (Confidence is a secret ingredient to putting people at ease.)
The next time you’re struck by someone’s otherness—say, a homeless person, begging in front of a grocery store —see if you can espy the wild divine, instead. If so, you may find strangeness interesting rather than threatening.
What if Maggie hadn’t encountered that uniformed defender of propriety? How might she be different today? Of course, we can't know. But we can imagine that she might still be dancing in the street. Wouldn’t that be fun to see?
Well my friend, that’s the end of this week’s post. I hope it made your brain boogie, your heart holler, and your mouth water for a little wildness. Salute and may you have a beautiful, beautiful day!
India Susanne Holden is the author of Crafting a Happy Life and The World Is Better than You Think. They are a writer, teacher, speaker, workshop & seminar leader, musician, artist, personal & spiritual development coach, Reiki Master, Tarot reader, entrepreneur, and genderqueer feminist.