Sometimes I’m an Asshole

Posted on in Healthy Living by Naomi Ehrich

On Being a Whole, Dynamic,
and Dimensional Woman


At some point, I dedicated my life to the study and cultivation of wholeness, a dedication that birthed out of my own need to have space to be all of me.

I was born into a sociocultural framework that didn’t make room for the full range of my womanhood—that didn’t include my confusion and my doubt, my vanity, my pettiness, my lust, or my rage. That literally and metaphorically taught me to suck it in, lift it up, shave it off, perfume it, dye it, and cover it up, until I found myself feeling squashed, denying pieces of myself, and working really hard to brush the parts of me that were not so nice, shiny, happy, attractive, and socially acceptable under the rug. I began to feel oppressed, subjugated by the pervasive messaging that my not-so-nice parts needed to be exiled from the vast inner-democracy of me. This was utterly fragmenting, and the total opposite of wholeness.

I recently confronted another layer of the subtle and insidious, yet violent and overt selfsquashing that happens when I feel inwardly (or outwardly) pressured to fit some unrealistic and inauthentic standard of womanhood. I felt as if I was drowning in the great divide between what I am and what I should be, walking a tightrope and hanging on for dear life.

Not long after this, I received a beautiful reminder via David Whyte during a talk he gave about the Mary Oliver poem “Wild Geese” that starts with the line, “You do not have to be good.”

He says, “If there is goodness in the world, it comes from our rubbing ourselves up against life and testing ourselves against it and making lots of mistakes and falling down flat and doing bad things thinking we’re doing good things, doing good things thinking we’re doing bad things, and making sense of it from the greater perspective of one’s own personal destiny and intuitions of where we’re supposed to go in the world.”

Such radical permission to be a human, to fuck it up, to learn through trial and error, and to follow our own inner imperatives about how we need to act and be in service of those things that go beyond what others may understand or perceive about our behaviors, motives, and intentions.

Big exhale.

The next day, I read these words on a friend’s Facebook page, and another wave of relief and permission washed over and settled inside me: “I have made choices in my life that other women in the same circumstances may not have made. But I am not other women. Or another woman. I am myself. I owe the world no explanations. I only owe it my own walk in dignity. I am a fierce protector of Life. And sometimes that protection has taken the form of saving myself instead of another or the relationship.”

Another deep exhale.

The truth is, we need to be able to follow the intuitions and instincts from our internal guidance mechanisms—those parts that whisper to us and compel us to journey beyond the known, the safe, the socially accepted or condoned. We need to honor those times when only we know what we have to do—drown out the voices of dissent and follow our inner prompts so that we can be in alignment with ourselves, come what may.

Even if the intention is to remain in integrity, to show up fully and skillfully, to do no harm, it doesn’t mean that we always can or do. Sometimes we behave badly and screw up. Sometimes we’re reactive, and lack bandwidth, or are a hot mess. So let’s own it and not pretend otherwise. Let’s make a wide space for ourselves to question and experiment and find out what’s really there.

I’m not advocating intentional meanness or violence or cruelty, but sometimes we need to follow our impulses and find out through experience what’s right and what isn’t, what works and what doesn’t. We need to be free to be adult learners who can fumble and be messy sometimes. We need to challenge the untenable standards, the soulstifling shoulds, and the eons of conditioning that insist on containment, compartmentalization, and compliance above dynamic self-expression.

I’d rather be whole than one-dimensional and only show the world one face. I’d rather be authentic and take risks than be gracious and agreeable all the time. I’d rather serve my clients and my relationships with a sharp sword and a fierce presence than acquiesce, placate, and maintain the status quo. But it’s all kinds of edgy because it touches on the most primal, deep-rooted fear that if I don’t show up the way others want me to, I might lose love, or belonging, or business, or my reputation—even though there is truly no way around being liked by some and disdained by others or avoiding people’s projections about me, for better or for worse. So I may as well be free to be all of me—the good, the bad, the ugly, the too much, the not enough, and everything in between.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a full-range human being, with blind spots and flaws, and just be real and fallible and a bitch sometimes. I want those parts to be included too. Otherwise, I feel like a caged animal, relentlessly judgmental of myself about how I “should” be and way less tolerant or forgiving of others when they mess up or just plain disappoint me.

So today I am embracing my ass-wholeness, because wholeness is best even when I’m not at mine.

Naomi Ehrich is a NY native and world traveler, recently transplanted to Santa Cruz. She is a pragmatic mystic, dynamic coach, and modern minister with a phone- and Skype-based private practice.

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