I PLAYED HOOKY with ARETHA
Dear Sister of the Heart,
I played hooky with Aretha Franklin a few weeks ago.
It sounds naughty and it was. I was breaking all the “rules”.
On a Monday morning, on the spur of the moment, I decided to go to the 11 AM show of the film Amazing Grace. (In 1972, Aretha Franklin performed gospel songs at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles and the film was not finished and released until recently.)
I grew up on Aretha Franklin’s music. I have danced to her music since I was 10 years old. And I love gospel music.
The movie theater had those over-sized seats where you sink right into plush leather and your body is giddy with gratitude. Before the movie started, the excitement was building in my body as it was pulsing with pleasure. The endorphins were already flowing and winning a race against the cortisol that was also pumping ever so slightly from my adrenal glands.
You see, a part of me was afraid I was going to get caught and get into some kind of trouble.
I laughed victoriously as the lights in the theater went down. Who was this scary authority figure that was going to come into the theater and reprimand me and tell me to get home and get back to work? They were a figment of my imagination, of course, but it’s amazing how quickly a figment of one’s imagination can unsettle one’s nervous system.
Do you know that inner voice, that inner taskmaster? I know you do because you tell me about that voice in workshops and in coaching sessions. You tell me about how that voice hounds you. And I don’t have a girlfriend who isn’t pestered by that voice to some degree, just as I am.
And my inner taskmaster was especially miffed that I had picked Monday of all days!
Wasn’t that the day we are “supposed to get back to work” after “taking it easy” on the weekend???
Many of us have made huge progress in identifying that voice and not identifying with that voice. Just the fact that I had made it to that theater, totally spontaneously, on a Monday morning, to experience the Queen of Soul for two hours, meant that I had come a long way.
In an earlier Love Letter I talked with you about the voice of meanness in our heads, and how my teacher Marion Woodman taught us (her students) to recognize that voice and not give it the power to change our day, our mood, or our behavior. She described it as an archetypal voice- a universal voice that we all can recognize and have the power to shift to its positive polar opposite. Archetypal voices that live within us always have two sides to them. In that Love Letter I spoke of an inner negative mother and how to replace her with the inner positive mother- and that we all have access to the energy and voice of the unconditionally loving Great Mother, who loves us no matter what we do or say. We are good enough as we are. In her eyes we are perfectly imperfect. She is the feminine face of God.
The taskmaster that was trying to get me out of that theater and back to work on that Monday morning is the archetype of the inner negative father- he is the inner voice of patriarchy- and a voice that lives in both women and men.
Now your personal father may not have been a negative taskmaster. If so, congratulations! Even if your father was not overbearing in this way, it’s impossible to avoid internalizing that taskmaster voice in a culture that was built on Puritan values. Growing up, we were all inundated by implicit (and explicit) messages that we must work until we drop. For many of us, we don’t stop until we are exhausted or sick. We don’t have a siesta built into our daily lives.
The first step back from this abyss of overdoing is to recognize that it is not good for us, for our daughters, or for the world, to be modeling this kind of out-of-balance behavior. Most of our daughters are way too hard on themselves and they have already internalized this taskmaster voice, as we watch them somewhat helplessly. They are burning the candle at both ends, and we need to be the voice of reason for them: the voice of the positive father, the positive masculine. (Women have inner masculine and feminine energy just as men have inner feminine and masculine energy. Mothers can “mother” and “father” just as Fathers can “father” and mother”. We can all access these different archetypal voices and energies and use them in the service of our body and soul and in raising our kids.
The way I see it, that inner positive father voice has the spine to stand up to the patriarchal culture and say ENOUGH. The positive father that we can cultivate within ourselves has a discipline that makes time for soul, for nature, for pleasure and for joy. The positive father archetypal voice and energy puts us to task to make that time. I went solo to this movie, but you could also say my inner positive father drove me to that movie. My courage and inner discipline got me there.
I think we need to practice random acts of pleasure and senseless acts of joy. I think we owe it to ourselves and to our daughters (and sons) to have endorphins pumping through our system on a regular basis. We owe it to ourselves to infuse joy and pleasure into our days with not just random acts but regularly planned acts.
We need to wrestle our daughter away from her to do list and get her out to walk in nature with us, to take a dance break with Aretha or Beyonce, to go for a mani-pedi, to cuddle up together (or in solitude) with our favorite books. We need tech boundaries and breaks to feel the real pleasure of connection with ourselves and with others.
It was a radical and revolutionary act for me to spontaneously jump in my car on a Monday morning and go solo to a movie that filled me with so much joy. What is an equivalent act that you can do this week? How are you going to access your inner positive father so that he puts you up to the task of slowing down and smelling the roses?