Escaping the Cage

I have always been a highly civilized person. For the most part, I am considerate of others. I am never intentionally rude or bad mannered or insulting. I am not uncouth. I don’t make scenes in public (or private, for that matter). I seldom raise my voice. I listen more than I talk. I dress modestly. I use correct English and am not given to crudeties or foul language. If it’s in my power and nature, I almost always do what others ask. I try to be helpful. In other words, I am tame.

Wheprisonn I was young, a lot of this tameness came from being fearful of doing the wrong thing. I grew up in a shifting emotional atmosphere where from one minute to the next, I didn’t know how I would be treated, so I did the only thing I could — be a good girl. I obeyed. I never talked back. I keep my rebellious thoughts to myself. I did what was expected of me, often before such expectations were even expressed.

As an adult, I continued to be tame. I seemed to know instinctively that any fierce disagreement would only lead to fiercer disagreements, escalating until one of the parties killed the other. Of course, such hostilities generally don’t end in death because somewhere along the line, one of the combatants gives in. Since I knew that in any conflict I would be the one to give in, I never took up the battle in the first place. If I were going to give in, I figured I might as well do so before any damage was done.

I’m still tame, of course. By now it’s not just a habit, it’s who I am. Kind. Conciliatory. Even-tempered. I do experience anger once in a very great while, but those infrequent outbursts flare up quickly and die just as quickly.

Still . . .

There is a untamed side to me — an inner savage, a wild woman, a primitive and elemental being — that I get glimpses of once in a while. I first noticed this untameness when grief descended on me with the all the power of Thor’s hammer. I had no idea I was capable of such feral emotions. Even if I had wanted to, I could not have controlled my grief as I had always controlled my emotions. Grief came in an instant then grew and grew until there was so much pain I wanted to scream. And so I did. Mild-mannered me, tame me, good girl me screamed my agony to the winds.

For the past four years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve been feeling an itch for “more.” I have never known what this undefined “more” is, but I’m getting an inkling that it is my wild side. I’m not sure how to unleash the wildness, though. Perhaps just by being aware of my connection to the earth. Perhaps by letting the winds take me where they wish. Perhaps by being spontaneous.

As John O’Donohue wrote in Aman Cara, “To be spontaneous is to escape the cage of the ego by trusting that which is beyond the self.”

To escape the cage. To be wild.

Oh, yes.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Untaming Me and Embracing My Inner Savage

I watched The Sleeping Dictionary the other night, or at least as much of it as I have on tape. My life mate/soul mate recorded movies that he liked and often ended them before things got ugly, turning a painful movie into a touching one, so in my version, the story ends when John and Selima profess their love. (I had become so tuned to death and disappointment during his last years that I could not bear stories with unhappy endings or characters who fought instead of appreciating what they had. Watching his movies, I now understand he’d developed that same sensitivity. His version of Braveheart, for example, ends before William Wallace is tortured and killed.)

But I digress.

When the young headhunter first appeared on the scene in The Sleeping Dictionary, I was struck by his savagery. I don’t mean his cruelty — though today “savage” is synonymous with brutality, it originally came from a word that means “woods.” I’m referring to his elemental nature, his primal being, his untameness.

I am a highly civilized person. For the most part, I am considerate of others. I am never intentionally rude or bad mannered or insulting. I am not uncouth. I don’t make scenes in public (or private, for that matter). I seldom raise my voice. I listen more than I talk. I dress modestly. I use correct English and am not given to crudeties or foul language. If it’s in my power and nature, I almost always do what others ask. I try to be helpful. In other words, I am tame.

As I watched the movie, I wondered if the time had come to untame me, to embrace my inner primitive. I don’t know what or how to do that, but it’s something worth thinking about. I know your first thought — tattoos. Nope. Today tattoos are not a matter of primalness but of fad, and fad is the epitome of civilization.

It would be interesting to have totems, rituals, amulets that meant something to me and my life, that would help me connect to life or at least remind me of that connection. To find or develop such primal symbols, however, I would first need to know who I am, to know what meaning life has for me, but the death of my life mate/soul mate so devastated me that I no longer know who I am or how I connect to anything.

Now, as I write this, I realize that I don’t need to start a search for my inner primitive. I am already on that quest.

I walk in the desert (as primeval a place as there is around here) and pay attention to how my body and mind join to the earth. I feel how my feet connect with the ground (well, how my shoes connect. I am not so savage as to be willing to walk in rattlesnake country unshod). I feel the air coursing through my lungs, and the breezes touching my skin. I feel the heat of the sun and the coolness of my evaporating perspiration. I open my mind and feel new ideas flowing in and old ideas flowing out.

Maybe someday I will untame me — find out who I am at rock bottom and live according to my truth. And maybe I am living that way now.

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