Radically Raw & Real
Candice Schutter - theMessenger, April 2011
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
It has been nearly a year since I published an issue of theMessenger. Last spring, I decided to let go of the idea that it was something required of me, and I waited for an impulse to reach out. It is no exaggeration to say that I feel like a different person, writing to you now. The past year shifted me in irrevocable ways, and finding the words to articulate these shifts, still occurring within, will take time. The truth is, I haven't known exactly what to share in recent months. In the past, I would simply wait for experiences to ripen into insight, then find a way to place it in a larger context that others might be able to relate to. But the past year has offered me more questions than answers.
As a life coach in today’s culture, I often felt an implied pressure to offer a formula that promises transformation. I would peruse the shelves of self-help sections and marvel at the titles... each one making a claim towards a different brand of salvation (happiness, abundance, loving connection). I did my best to fit the mold of the perfect coach; even offering workshops featuring principles deemed as 'universal.' Yet, over time, I felt a nagging frustration grow within. While I did my best to encourage self-reliance, I began hearing a new brand of self-deprecating statements from clients who felt shame and frustration at their seeming lack of 'success' with the so-called laws of growth and transformation. I realize now that I was feeling a lack of integrity - pretending to have answers in a world that is a mystery to us. Who was I kidding? While I know that much of what I was sharing was of value... the concrete terms I began to speak in felt foreign to my subjective senses.
Eventually, the sensation of being boxed in by principle became unbearable. I wondered: What if I dared to offend the imaginary new age gods we have erected? What if I abandoned self-righteousness for the sake of freedom? What if I stripped off the bullshit facade and said whatever was on my mind without filter or fear of some invisible consequence? What if was just me, plain and simple... trading positively perky for radically raw and real? What if there was no fear of getting it wrong? What if I actually allowed myself to do everything I claimed I didn't want to do anymore... things like watching whatever I wanted on TV... exploring my sexuality more openly... drinking alcohol or even smoking a cigarette simply for the pleasureful buzz?! In short, what if stopped the great balancing act and took a great big nose dive from the pedestal of pretension and personal growth. While I don’t encourage a mindlessly reckless existence, I can tell you that a courageous season of debauchery can be extraordinarily therapeutic for the perpetually pious.
Just to be clear, piety is an adherence to virtue in order to win favor - be it the favor of the gods (conventional religion), the positive consequence of spiritual laws believed to govern existence (new agism), or a more general tendency towards conformity in order to avoid the judgment of the masses. It all counts as measuring oneself in reference to something or someone who has set a standard that you feel you must adhere to.
Surrendering to debauchery was easier than I expected. Soon, words and practices that once held meaning for me became empty vessels of inconvenient banter. I found myself attracted to the polar opposite of my status quo, gravitating towards people and experiences that existed without filters I didn’t even know I had. I began living my life without the dictates of someone else's formula and became immune to what had suddenly become spiritual mumbo jumbo to me. I began to marvel at how arrogant we humans can become, thinking we understand so much that is beyond our comprehension. What happened to vulnerability, the honesty of not having the answers? Not to mention, so much emphasis on the intangible seem to leave so many people disengaged from the real guts of life. How many of the delicious nuances of life do we miss while we pretended to be perfecting ourselves?
The death of someone I love deeply was the final blow to an already crumbling foundation. All it takes is a wake-up call to change everything we thought we once knew. We have many over the course of our lives. When we listen, we can open our eyes wider than ever before. When we don't, we cling eagerly to what we think will save us from swallowing the bitter-sweet medicine of change. I see now that I spent a decade immersing myself in dogma. At the time, it was exactly what was needed. It was a life vest that kept my head above water when the concept of the uncontrollable was too great an ocean to swim. In my effort to find meaning, I clung to ideas... married myself to practices... and even idolized others in an effort to avoid the powerlessness I felt within. None of this do I look back on with regret. However, I now see that the ideologies I leaned into for comfort eventually boxed me in. The rules that I let dictate my everyday kept me disconnected from the freedom I so longed for. And the people that I sought to be like were mostly mirages... each based on projections of latent parts of me that longed to take flight.
The funny thing is, I didn't even realize that I was holding myself hostage. That's the thing about the truth... it’s a mirror you have to turn and look into. It's for that reason I know that humility is essential to growth. It takes courage to question. It takes strength to say not, "I was wrong," but instead say "what was once right for me is no longer." Sound like the same thing? But it isn't. The first admission implies regret... a sentiment that misses the point altogether.
So now I write to you without answers, without guarantees, and without boundaries. I write because it is what I do... it is like breathing to me, and holding in air never feels good.
I am no longer waiting to exhale.