Living a lie takes a toll. What is held in while awake nevertheless comes out via the unconscious.
Whenever I’m not true to myself I’m often visited by some pretty weird nocturnal messengers –dreams where blood, piss and shit feature prominently. They’re the smoke signals that in years past left me bewildered and uneasy in the morning.
More than once I dreamed I walked into a woman’s locker room only to find stalls overflowing with and floors ankle-deep in excrement. I remember another dream in which I was crucified, dressed in a thin, delicate pale gown, bound to the floor and bleeding from several unseen wounds. Most disturbing were repeated dreams in which I tried to talk with some shadowy man only to watch in horror as my teeth dropped one by one from a bloody mouth. Those never failed to wake me, mind racing, wondering “What the hell was that all about” and unable to go back to sleep.
Years later, in my early 40s, during a semester studying psychology, our professor, an advocate of Jungian theory, had us analyzing our earliest memories and dreams. It was then that I admitted to myself the frustration, fear and lack of confidence that gave substance to these earlier apparitions that had given me such anxiety.
Often I swallowed bullying or inappropriate behavior when revenge is what I really wanted, to retaliate with a good slap or punch. Had I been courageous enough confrontation might have done the trick to get bullies in line. But I thought the risk was too much; not wanting to be hurt, disliked or possibly losing someone’s love kept me struggling to hold the boat steady.
I’m not saying you should resort to violence but making the fearful child in you disappear, making the girl (or boy) gone, requires courage, risk-taking, and a less pleasing, stepping-outside-the boundaries-of-roles, bad-ass kind of stance. Women in particular may find this a hard task.
I know men and women who perform daily gymnastics bending too far back to please others. In the process dreams are buried, self-care denied and others disliked/disrespected; women who are “too outspoken, too loud”, and who “speak too much of their mind” still get a bad rap, from both men and women. I think that’s sad.
As for me, years ago I started asking myself some hard questions. Some are:
- Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
- If ever again faced with the question, “Will you take my hand in marriage?” would I take the offer? Why? (Since the likelihood of that happening is about as slim as Johnny Depp calling to invite me to a Mad Hatter tea party this is more of a mental exercise. Nevertheless, it’s a question that I, on occasion, like to ponder.)
- Is having a pet’s unconditional love better than being part of a relationship that leaves you untrue to yourself? (A plaque in my kitchen states: “What’s the difference between a new husband and a new dog? After a year, the dog is still excited to see you.”)
I don’t have the definitive answer for these. But I’m pretty sure that, relationship in my life or not, there will likely be another dog in my future. Because, as Cynthia Copeland, in her book Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me attributes to Doris Day, “…when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”
Erica Jong, writing about the perfect man in her book, What do Women Want,(1998), describes how she learned that, to attain a true partnership she had to admit to herself that she had character flaws and had to be willing to accept the same in her perfect man, “…who is, after all, the one who sees the best in you and who holds you to your own beau ideal even when you waver.”
Gone Girl ends with a replay of the opening scene with the same look, same words. This time however, the smile on Amy’s face seems different, –more feral. Like a Cheetah she is swift , a huntress, capable of not only stalking her prey but killing to get what she wants –her “ideal” world. And Nick, for his own reasons, plays along in this very troubled, staged, fantasy world. No one wins.
To me, molding yourself into the role of the perfect daughter, wife, husband or whatever expectations others have of you fails to honor the self. Your unique voice, spirit and gifts suffer or are altogether lost.
More and more, it’s not a price I’m willing to pay.