I think this is truly my year of the butterfly, of shedding my layers of masks and shells and letting my beautiful self out to enjoy the world in my own unique way. And how fitting it will be to wear huge butterfly wings at my wedding, in a few months! Yes, I’m getting married to my love, the wonderful, loving, Pan in the flesh that I’ve been with almost 3 years!
My whole life, I’ve gone through a progression of taming my spirit, and hiding it away with carefully created masks, and letting fears bar me from being myself and truly happy. But when did the taming of my spirit start? I certainly wasn’t as tame when I was little. My mom has told me that when I was a toddler, at about one or two years old, I had so much energy that I would rock back and forth so much in the barnvang, Swedish for baby carriage, that she needed to strap me in so that I wouldn’t fall out. And my true self has always had this zest for life, excited to do things, meet people, play, and so forth. I was a happy kid, spontaneous, playing in puddles or riding my tricycle all over town on adventures. It was the 70s, and people weren’t afraid of child abductors (as far as I knew); kids could ride a tricycle several blocks away to a friend’s place to play, on their own, at about 4 or 5 years old, and no one would worry. Maybe my mom did worry, but if she did, I didn’t know about it! So from birth to about 5, my spirit was untamed, happy, and confident in myself.
I’m not sure what happened, but at about 6, I started to realize that I was seen as gangly and nerdy, I was teased by many children at once, and I started to tame myself, to tamp down on my energy, be more careful, don’t attract attention, do as others do, and that sort of thing. We had moved to Colorado from Massachusetts. I was seen as different and odd, I had Swedish androgynous clothes and probably clothes from Massachusetts, I was pretty direct, and maybe I talked with an accent, though I’m not really sure if that’s why kids made fun of me. It didn’t happen right away, so it wasn’t all about how I looked. (If any childhood peeps happen to read this and have any insights, as long as you can tell me in a constructive, positive way, I would welcome that.) Anyway, it was then I that started tamping down on myself, not letting myself be my true self, and letting that bit of me shine out in a glimmer only after a long time after someone started to get to know me. Also, for some reason I let all that get to me, whereas before that I didn’t. I’m not sure why.
Then in my middle school years, my two friends at school stopped being my friends suddenly, and I started getting bad grades, not caring, and being depressed. I’m not sure which happened first, was it my extreme shyness or that incident that caused it? At that time, I was too afraid to even get up in class to get a tissue to blow my nose. I would sit, frozen at my desk, not wanting to attract any attention, didn’t want eyes on me as I walked to get a tissue, didn’t want anyone to see boogers come out of my nose, and so on! It was ridiculous. I was painfully, painfully shy. I was still teased, then, too, and also ostracized. I think that again, it was that I was different, and maybe my negativity that caused it as well.
Throughout all of that, I could have shrugged off what others thought, been confident in myself, and not let it get to me. I could have gone up to those who teased me and asked them blunt questions, such as why are you even focused on me? And who cares what kind of ___ I wear or look like or act like anyway? I could have let myself be free and untamed, rather than letting myself force my spirit down and away from what I thought were judgmental eyes and minds. I realize now that I acted like prey. Wanting to hide away from it, rather than standing up for myself. As it was, I actively hid myself away from others and rarely let myself out to play and be free.
Though, I felt safe at home, playing with my sister in my neighborhood, and also had some great friends as I grew up, so there’s that positive part to my life. Still, at home and with those friends, I had a mask and way of behaving in order to please them, though those masks were lighter than the various ones I put on to be out and about in the world.
I started to shed some of the shells and masks at the start of 9th grade, and I started to like myself better as I am, but it was only a start. I still did things very carefully, and that has continued throughout my life, planning out what I was going to say or do before I did it, weighing whether people would see me or not, practicing my outer mask in the mirror, how to smile, how to look and act. I created shell upon shell that others would have to slowly melt or break through to get to who I really was.
Now, there are some good things about being careful what you say, and caring how other people think. In that way you don’t act as a crass, selfish and despicable human being. Everything is tempered by something else. It’s still good to consider others’ feelings and comfort zones when doing things. I’m not saying I should disregard that, just not let fears rule my life. Also, a bit of a mask is good, so you don’t let the goo of all your emotions and thought spill out all over the place. So, there’s that. It’s just that the inhibiting of myself that I’ve done throughout my life has been extreme and debilitating.
Of course, all of this extreme tamping down of my spirit went on without me really being conscious that it was happening. In high school and college, I started to realize who I truly was, what I really liked and believed, and started to be able to shed my exterior mask that kept my true self in line. I forced myself to talk to strangers, to train myself to not be as shy. Basically everything I did, I had to force myself to do, most of the time. Once I started, I started to realize I was fine. For example, though I used to get very scared and upset when I got lost as I drove, later, I consciously let myself get lost, and be OK with being lost while driving, because then I’d know where I was the next time. Keep in mind that this was before cell phones and GPS, with just a paper map to guide me. I went to movie theaters, restaurants, and traveled by plane or train by myself. I proved to myself that I could do things, and that helped me shed layers of my shell. All throughout, though, I was afraid of what people might think, and felt weird being out and about all by myself. I just had to ignore those feelings and go ahead and do it.
So I still have inklings of that social fear, which rationally, I know, is ridiculous. Recently, I have been hesitating to do things like ride my bike or hula hoop, because I have an subconscious feeling that people are looking and judging. Rationally I know that isn’t true, but the feeling is there, and I don’t realize it until later. So instead, I have been opting to stay inside and watch Netflix or similar. That fear that I let build up and strengthen throughout my life is still there, unhealed, and I only recently realized it’s still there! Also, my Christian upbringing, while having some positive points, has really influenced my life in ways that I also want to release- being prudish about sex, or feeling guilty feelings over things that are natural, needs to be released and it’s there, influencing the tamping down of my spirit. I thought I had already released all of that, but the roots of all that is still clinging to me. I think a good burning off the old brush kind of ritual is in order!
Just this past week, I realized that though a few years ago I became more and more untamed and shed some of my masks and shells, I was back to putting on my masks and shells again. Then and there, through tears of anguish over the thought of losing myself and losing someone I hold very dear because of my fears, I decided to STOP LETTING FEARS BAR ME FROM MY HAPPINESS. That has become my mantra. That realization and determination has released me again and I’m willing to get out there and do things that make me happy, as well as try new things. Here’s a list of silly little things I may not do because of fear, what that silly fear is, and why it’s silly.
(A Monty Python quote comes to mind: “Jethro Q. Bunn Whackett Buzzard Stubble and Boot Walrustitty…, Silly Party…. Malcolm Peter Brian Telescope Adrian Blackpool Rock Stoatgobbler John Raw Vegetable Brrroooo Norman Michael (rings bell) (blows whistle) Edward (sounds car horn) (does train impersonation) (sounds buzzer) Thomas Moo… (sings) ‘We’ll keep a welcome in the…’ (fires gun) William (makes silly noise) ‘Raindrops keep falling on my’ (weird noise) ‘Don’t sleep in the subway’ (cuckoo cuckoo) Naaoooo… Smith.: Very Silly. ….”) (No, I didn’t have that memorized!!)
Silly Little Things List
Listed as in this format- (bullet point) activity: fears; why silly
- hula hoop: eyes, criticism, look awkward; silly because who’s looking anyway, who cares what people think? Just do it, like Nike says (and how cool is that, that Nike is a Greek Goddess? Totally pagan).
- ride bike: (same as above), also the fear of ‘what if I fall and break open my head and I can’t call for help on my phone?’; silly, because that fear can apply to any situation! Don’t go your life not doing things ‘cuz of fears like that, right?
- wearing clothes or hairstyle that are out of the norm for a situation: odd looks from strangers, unwanted attention (positive or negative attention, doesn’t matter), losing a job or negative job evaluations, viewed as inappropriate; silly to some extent ‘cuz who cares what people think (something I really need to release myself from, that worry), and I really won’t lose my job or get negative job evaluations over it unless it’s very extreme or inappropriate, which my own style isn’t really.
- not wearing a bra (!): OH MY what if my nipples pop out of my shirt and scare off the muggles or attract the creepers; who the f* cares, and if they do, then too bad. (Though, I do wear a bra at work, don’t want to be deemed inappropriate since I work with kids.)
- admitting my sexual preferences and living a lifestyle that matches that: becoming lost or soul degrades in a lustful situation (this fear stems from my Christian upbringing), losing my hubby-to-be to someone else (not going to happen), awkward friendships after (no, this hasn’t happened, though it could), also the stigma of having a non-muggle persona (I’ve already gotten over that fear mostly).
- posting a blog about this and admitting my fears to others (!): who KNOWS what could happen? That’s way too open and revealing of yourself; again, who the f* cares and maybe, just maybe, a blog like this will help others who also feel the same way.
- Doing pagany things again: the scars of the past being reopened (no, I doubt it, but if that happens, that means I have more healing to do), going down into that dark scary cave where you don’t know what monsters lurk and doing the spiritual work on yourself that needs to be done; all paganism isn’t deep and dark, a lot of it is very fun, and maybe you SHOULD go into that deep dark cave and confront the monsters!
- talking to others, flirting, or complimenting others, especially strangers: being out of the comfort zone, entering into awkward situations, not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do next, what will the other person think etc.; many reasons why this is silly but also I just need to be OK with being in an awkward situation and not be afraid of that in itself.
Anyway, I could go on and on. But again, my mantra now is: I WILL NOT LET FEAR BAR ME FROM MY HAPPINESS. Somehow, that mantra is helping me shrug off the shells and just BE. And I’m already so much happier and free just knowing I can do this.
This is my year of the butterfly, to be my own untamed womyn! So mote it be!