My friend Joan lived in Tokyo for a time and told me the Japanese had a saying. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.” Growing up in a small farming community in the Midwest I got the message early on that it was better to blend than burn brightly and independently.
If you were too pretty, too rich, too smart, too happy, too loud, too wild, or just too much you were going to stick out and get hammered. Definitely a different tribe than the one I blogged about who would remind you that you were all that.
That advice seemed to serve me until I moved to Texas. Everything about Texas was big, beautiful, rich, loud, untamed, and excessive. Real Texans exuded a sense of entitlement. Their motto seemed to be “it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” Stake your claim and quibble over the particulars in court.
No apologies necessary.
Although I could never quite call Texas my home, I learned a lot of lessons living there. Many of these revolved around thinking big, asking big, dreaming big, playing big. I was encouraged to toot my own horn, grow into my own particular brand of beauty, and earn abundantly.
When I returned to the Midwest, the concept of becoming “too big for my britches” was once again called in for questioning. After attempting to wear Texas size britches, it was challenging to shrink back into those tight fitting unassuming britches. There had to be a middle ground.
If figured if I wrote about it, I might begin to make sense of it. So I cracked open my trusty journal and listed everything I felt compelled to apologize for.
What followed was a tirade of apologies for everything from conspicuous consumption to global warming (or cooling, if you currently live in Iowa) to my inability to stand up for myself, reduce my personal portion of the national debt, or attract of member of the opposite sex under eighty and over eight. You’ll be pleased to know, I’ve since figured a few of these things out.
As I wrote my way through my anger and frustration I finally declared, “My life is not an apology!”. The weight of this declaration stopped me in my writing tracks.
For far too long I had been carrying around an enormous amount of guilt about being too much of this and not enough of that. I had assumed responsibility for things that had nothing to do with me and willingly taken the blame for a series of events that were well beyond my control.
Through it all I had exercised my right to remain silent. From the quirky to quintessential, the time had come to craft my own Bill of Rights.
I have the right to bare arms – if I have buff biceps, otherwise a sleeveless shirt seems shameful once you reach a certain age, feed my dog table scraps, sleep in on Sundays, take in a matinee in the middle of the week, listen to self-help tapes while driving my car, recite poetry underneath a full moon, and live in a way that honors my soul. I have a right to take up space, soak in the silence, and speak my truth, even if my voice shakes.
And so do you.
In fact, in times of darkness, fear, and uncertainty, your light is the best gift you can offer the world. It’s not a question of “who are you?” to do this or be that, but “who are you not to be who or what you are meant to be” especially when you’re the only one truly suited for the job?
Your life is not an apology. Your life is your message.
What are you broadcasting?