So says the first line of Mary Oliver’s incandescent poem, “Wild Geese”. Have you read it? If not, I highly recommend it, as I do all her poems. Although maybe you’re not into poetry. Maybe you prefer rally driving, in which case, you’re probably not wasting your driving time reading this… And why would you?
You were probably told as a child that you had to be good. This usually meant curbing some kind of anti-social behaviour or other. For example:
- Yes, you must kiss weird Great Aunt Mabel who you’ve never met before even though she has a hair growing out of the mole on her chin.
- No, you must not talk and wriggle around in church even though your legs ache, you’re bored out of your tiny little mind and the hour long service feels like three hours.
- Yes, you must share your toy with the evil kid from across the street, who you know is going to break it, even though it’s your most treasured possession. You don’t see your parents sharing their brand new car with his parents. But pointing out such a fact is insolent.
- No, you must not whack your sister about the head with your lego when she calls you a poo poo head.
Now, I’m not one to advocate violence, (that really wouldn’t be good), but it does seem that these fairly common childhood experiences are likely to teach us to quell our natural impulses. Especially if we want to stay in with the grown ups in our life, upon whom we are dependent for food and shelter. So how are the lessons in the above mentioned scenarios likely to manifest themselves in adulthood?
- This could stop us from refusing the unwanted sexual advances of a person we don’t even like out of a sense of misguided politeness. We might worry more about hurting their feelings than hurting our own, perhaps leading to a situation that’s uncomfortable or even dangerous.
- We put up with a job, relationship or situation that bores us rigid because that is the responsible thing to do.
- We bear it with equanimity when someone plays fast and loose with our heart or tramples all over our feelings.
- We put up with shoddy or abusive behaviour because that’s what a good little boy or girl does.
Do I exaggerate? Possibly. But what I do know for sure is that when we ignore our internal guidance systems, we can end up very lost, in relationships, careers or scenarios that cause us to ask ourselves — how in the heck did I get here? And why on earth am I staying?
We have to reclaim our own internal sat nav systems. We were all born with one, you know. Every single one of us. Your clues are your feelings. If you feel suddenly and inexplicably angry with someone or something, don’t just squish it down. It probably means that your own or somebody else’s rights are being disrespected. And if you meet someone and immediately get the feeling that they’re a creep — listen to yourself, instead of swallowing it down and getting in to the elevator with them anyway.
You know. You really do. You’ve just forgotten that you know. It’s time to remember. You don’t have to be good as the world prescribes it. You just have to be true. To yourself.