i once wrote a thesis on disobedient women in mythology. it changed my ideas. It changed the way i wrote. it changed the place i called home. and i was never the same after that.
the research and writing wound around and through a great many things, but it’s entire origins came from one line by carl jung, which i had found even longer ago, years before, and it never left me.
“i’d rather be whole than good.”
whole. complete. all of life. all of me.
to do so, to choose this, asks for integration.
because fragmentation is almost inevitable, splintering the self into disparate pieces that seem to never connect or know the other’s name. and sometimes, it is just that something happens, a slow or sudden loss, a change that twists things inside out, and nothing fits anymore, and you don’t know if this is your salvation or your undoing.
lately, i’ve been thinking about these things again. because i’ve been in the thick of integration again.
it is sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes the relaxed shoulders of relief. it is sometimes obscene and sometimes stunning. it is sometimes loud and wild child messy and sometimes quiet and subversive. and none of this is a problem to be solved, a thing to be fixed.
the integrating itself is whole. and i’m here, following where it leads me.
these are some of the things i learn in the walking and weaving.
- say things. speak, out loud, even if it is only yourself, alone in the hot bath, protected in salt and steam. just say them, the words, what happened, and what happened next. really, i am already telling myself these things all the time, inside my head, but my brain is used to them by now, and mistakes familiar with feeling good. spoken, out loud, i can now truly hear them, as if for the first time. i’ve let them be real. no embellishment needed. the thing is, i can become so accustomed to talking myself into and out of things, that i forget what it is like to hear the truth of my own voice, saying this is what happened, and allowing for a real response to occur in me, breaking up the familiar loop of mental chatter telling me things that start with should and can’t. speaking, out loud, no matter what it is that comes out, is so very often the beginning of ending the disowning of myself.
- speak the words out loud. but then let them be. because hovering and smothering breed anxiety, and the words, the truth, will go breathe and then migrate home to you in its own formation. the way you can say something and it feels like an earthquake tremor inside you, and then you just leave it alone, and days or weeks later, you are doing something unrelated, like watering your plants or looking up at the rear-view mirror in the car, and all of the sudden it comes back to you, with the grace of clarity, and everything settles and quiets, and you know then what you will do. maybe this is what it means to trust.
- watch the sun set. watch the sun rise. how it is light and then dark, dark and then light. repeat, as often as necessary.
- respect what you did to survive, say thank you to the survival instinct itself, love the tiger that came from you and destroyed so as to save you. it is sometimes brutal, and offensive, and easy to judge after the fact. but it too is love, and will do the unthinkable in order to love you. and, you can also let it leave when it’s no longer needed, knowing it will return at a moment’s notice, if ever you should call. you love it because it gave you life, but it was never meant to be your best friend, domesticated into a pet. so you can go to bed, and sleep deep now, your body still etched in its scars, but no longer needing to lie there with the gun underneath the pillow next to you. so you can say thank you, and walk away, into the living. and it will let you, because all it ever wanted was to give you life. so say thank you, love it back, by choosing now to live.
- do not ask your wilderness to be a cultivated rose garden. do not ask your wild to be civilized. do not ask your honey sweetness to be bitter dark, or your emptied hollows to be food for others, or your bones to trade places with your veins. integration is not about meshing everything together, where it is then a watered down anemic version of itself. rather, it seems to be about allowing for coexistence, where there is then a greater fullness of all things, nothing excluded, and nothing asked to be anything other than what it is.
- have imaginary conversations with people, including and perhaps especially those who are not real or who you do not know personally or who lived long before you. these days, i regularly talk to lilith and medea, bill clinton and our lady of loudre, and an entirely imagined flapper from the twenties who ran away from home and joined the circus. i learn things in these conversations that is like the missing key to the things i need to know, the part of me that is ready to be invited back home, spilling wisdom out like buried treasure finally found.
- drink lots of water.
- some things will never makes sense. some things will never have a good reason. some things never should happen, except they did. and there is no cohesive narrative. don’t try to make one; it will make you crazy. it doesn’t always all fit, the collection of broken pieces. it all still belongs to you. so you have a reckoning. with reality. with your own nature. with all that is known and all that is unknowable. and you say this is what happened. and i survived.
- give up the tight fisted story, for a while at least. the one that takes a great deal of energy and effort to continue telling yourself, asking everything in life to confirm its validity. it is exhausting. repeating the same bullshit story to myself integrates nothing. it only isolates me, leaving me locked away in a prison of my own making. because, meaning is layered and ever changing. so let it.
- ask questions. questions are gold. questions are doorways and gateways. questions are both the map and the center of the x where it all leads. questions are the space, where beginnings are wrapped around everything that came before.
- decide to not judge your grief, and tell it what it is supposed to look like. it hurts. dear god does it hurt. and it sometimes feels like it won’t ever end. but what i am learning is this. grief does not require my management. left to its own ways, it just does what it does. I’m unhinged. i’m all over the place. i am wild eyed and wrecked makeup. i am curious and awake and building things. i am so many things, even in one day. and none of it is actually a problem. i am learning, i think, to get out of my own way. learning that when i don’t interfere with life, i can actually participate in it more fully.
- listen to the voice of the body. the way the heart and lungs and skin, brain and spine and the soft underside of knees, are all separate and all still your body. integrated, whole. listen to all the places in the body that the feelings and names and memories and questions reside and roam about, how they come and go, settle and shapeshift, ever changing truth, asking only that you listen.
- eat your shadow. take it into you. let is feed you. if you do not, it will come to consume you. eat the truth of your knowing. eat the absence of your hoped for happy ending. eat your hate and your hardness and your fear of softness. leave the upper world for a time, eat the pomegranate seed of the underworld, and know you belong now to the whole world.
- once you have a taken a thing into you, you are then free to let the rest go. so, get rid of things. burn the journals or letters. throw away the bed sheets and shoes you never liked. delete. remove. lighten. let go. the way that integration does not mean grasping onto everything, but in seeing the center that holds when other things fall away. in knowing that life happens, and we are changed, and there remains that which cannot be taken.
- give a cocktail or two to the mental act of fitting puzzle pieces together, and offer it a nice furry blanket so it can unwind and take a nap. leave the figuring out for later, for never. and then, do something. this is how things truly integrate for me. doing something, giving myself over to something, and letting the knotted thread unwind itself, all on its own. so write everything down and then walk away and go get lost in the grocery store, aisles of teas and smoked meat and vanilla in dark glass bottles. listen to your son play his recorder and then make waffles for dinner. go visit your friend at the hospital, and standing there in the elevator, remember the song you sang that night in the car, all of you crammed together, driving to nowhere, which was everything, and there is nothing else to know then. scrub the floor and find your misplaced necklace and greenhouse heart. paint the bedroom walls and discover that you are suddenly talking to your father except he is young, younger even than you now, wearing his blue work shirt, and you realize you are making your peace with your past. do something. make something. live. let life happen. and know that it is being woven together, inside of you. integrated, whole. and all is welcome here, in this house of belonging. here, where all dwell free.