We are encouraged, in this culture, to create a movie in our mind.
In that film, we see the course of life as imagination, all our hopes and dreams and wishes, all the expectations that come with us following the rules and growing up to be who we should be, the person who is the perfect synthesis of chasing dreams, following family and being good, nice & appropriate.
There are alternate takes of how dire, bleak and tragic life could be if we break the boundaries, straying from the virtue of assigned roles. Those scary bits help keep us in line, keep us focused on the should, the compliant, the expected, the socially acceptable.
Even though we know that the most wonderful things that have ever happened to us were completely unexpected, were impossible to plan, most of us cling to the idea that if we just chase the goals and wishes given to us, we will find good.
At some point, though, real life intervenes. It always does. The film breaks in the projector, flapping off in a frenzy and we are left with nothing but harsh light shining in the darkness.
At what age do we begin to understand that the story we were issued, the dream we built to get us through just isn’t going to come through? When do we start facing that mourning for lost images of perfection that were never achievable is what we have to do?
If our dream never dies, our possibilities can never fully live. It is only by getting past those illusions, engaging what is and being open to the divine surprise that we can start making choices that make the most of who we are.
The access point to understanding what I share is wherever your own film breaks and you realize that moving beyond canned expectations is your only choice for a full and happy life.
Where you stumble, there lies your jewel, as Campbell tells us. That stumble isn’t unique, rather it is just your portal to the world of the present, of enlightenment and better that has always been revealed and celebrated in the spiritual teachings of human cultures.
If your heart doesn’t break, how will it ever be able to grow? How will you learn to map it if it is hidden behind layers of woulda, coulda, shoulda, behind the walls of expectations, assumptions and habits you have meticulously wrapped around it as defence?
Letting go of the film never happens in one fell swoop. We grab sticky tape and patch it together again, hoping to salvage our old normativity so we can make our life easy, protected and comfortable again. Being open is being vulnerable and that is the terrifying thing we wove the screenplay to guard against, because if we always had our expectations to cradle us we wouldn’t feel alone and separate.
Everybody wants a shortcut to happiness. Those dreams that kept us warm though the dark nights are precious to us. They will always be inside of us, will always feed our desire, always contain clues to what excites us. We want them to be true.
Give me the courage to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.
The power to open our eyes to what we have now, to open our dreams to what is possible for us, and not get stuck and blocked over what we wanted but is not available to us, is a key to growing up and getting the best out of life, finding what will bring us peace, happiness and motivation.
Returning to the handmade life and letting go of the manufactured, marketing dreams, the commercial product placement in the movie in our head is heartbreaking but vital. It opens our heart to the world of possibility and opens us to the essential, natural beauty that exists in our heart. We need, as Pinkola-Estes reminds us, to make our own red shoes before the market bought ones dance us to the demon.
I had to understand very early that factory made dreams, lovely crowd-pleasing movie scripts would never, ever be for me.
There was no kindly mother around for me, no father full of wisdom, no easy support or simple dreams about some special relationship that would save me. The stereotypical components of my movie were twisted or missing.
Maybe that’s why the transgender understanding I emerged with was so different than the standard narratives, the “heterosexual crossdresser” or the “always a woman” models that I spoke out against in my IFGE keynote in 1995.
The movie of my life broke and sputtered to a stop very, very early. I had to use the light to find my own knowledge in a rational search for truth, a deep analysis to create a useful model of the world around me.
Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Unless we commit to recovering who we are underneath the movie planted in our head (1994), though, we can’t burn away the expectations that weigh us down and cause us suffering, can’t be reborn past stubborn illusions.
When that movie in your head starts to tear apart it scares the crap out of us. Who will we be, how will we be happy unless we have those implanted images to cling to, to shape us, even as we learn that they don’t reflect what is, don’t really help us be present enough to make the most of the world and the nature we have got.
I know why so many people, when they have to choose between the movie version of their life, the one that contains some kind of comforting illusions, or a vulnerable, aware and enlightened stance which demands responsibility for choices, requires accountability & precision, try to shut me up rather than opening to me.
The point at which you start having to face the bigger picture is the point at which the small picture in your head starts to fail, when your expectations no longer offer a kind of reality you can impose onto the world.
Where you stumble, though, there lies your jewel, the opening to an enlightened, connected and healthy world.