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On Permissions

Here’s what I know now.... I can, YOU can, always be moving toward more of what you want. Even if you need to crawl, to hobble, to roll. In fact, to navigate life skillfully means working with what comes up, using it, flowing around it, crashing through it, all the time. We all want to live our truer lives, to keep navigating closer to what’s real for us. To be seen as we are. To take your last breath and know, “I showed up. I kept listening to what called me. I kept stumbling, dancing and embracing what life brought. I was there for the whole show.” – Jen Louden


While in medical school, I spent 4 years in the unique city of New Orleans. Halloween was unquestionably the best party of the year there. The weather had cooled from steamy to merely balmy, and it was still warm enough to be outside at night in a flimsy costume. Unlike its rowdier cousin, Mardi Gras, Halloween in New Orleans had a larger proportion of locals, many of whom turned out in the most amazing array of costumes and haunted the streets, making for great people watching. Many wore masks, and everyone took the street car downtown (because it was only $1 in 2003, and who wanted to struggle to park in the mazes of the section of the city built before automobiles were even a thought) for the spectacle. It was in that setting that I realized how liberating a costume and a mask could be. I felt quite daring going out one year in a gauzy harem girl costume with (gasp!) a brief top and a bare midriff, although given the general debauchery, I doubt anyone else looked twice at me. The point though, is that the costume and mask changed something inside my own head. It was *permissive.* I danced and flirted more than a nice Southern girl might usually, just because other than my friends, no one knew it was me and therefore no one was watching {me}.

Permissions are tricky things. The beautiful Kelly Rae Roberts writes about them on her blog and expresses them in her art. Most of the time, the person we need the permission from is ourselves. As I bump against my personal and professional edges of the middle part of my life, I find that I keep needing to re-frame my expectations. Permission to take risks in relationships. Permission to not know how to do big things like purchase a home for the first time. Permission to be vulnerable. Permission to just show up for the parts of life where I'm pretty sure I'm going to be clumsy and awkward until I have a few chances to figure it out. It takes courage. It takes self-compassion. It takes *time.*

What permissions do YOU need? Do you need to take that dance class even though you are going to stumble through the routines for the first 4 weeks? Do you need to find a form of creative expression even though you keep telling yourself that you are not "artistic?" Do you need to have a difficult conversation with a partner or a child or a parent and you need permission to have it not go perfectly smoothly?

Only you can allow yourself to fully show up for life.

(A special note to my mom: Stop that. I can hear you worrying from all the way out here about what your 21-year-old daughter might have gotten up to over a decade ago. I promise that I didn't do anything wild and foolish. It was just the idea that I could have that I found inspiring at the time.)


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