“Just be yourself”— the three words most terrifying to hear! “Your self” means the one that’s entirely unique, that is threaded to some image from the Soul decided on before birth, then hidden and waiting to be revealed in a lifetime of playing “hide and seek.” It’s not the self that likes the color red and prefers anchovies on pizza and likes this hip-hop group over that one (though all of those might be a small part of it), it’s the one that loves the particular combinations of things that no one else loves in quite the same way. It’s the self that is wholly vulnerable and yet wholly confident, at once tender and fierce, connected to all in the furnace of Solitude, giving out both heat and light.
“Just be yourself” sounds easy, but what if others don’t like what they see? What if they ignore it or shame it or make fun of it and disdain it? Then that other self, the one that yearns to be liked and accepted and appreciated, quickly hides it away and banishes it to the basement, perhaps visiting it occasionally, but if so, always worried about getting caught.
And the truth of the matter? Others will not casually accept it— not your parents nor siblings nor friends nor school teachers nor church preachers. They’ll feel threatened by it or jealous or determined to bend you to their version of you or wholly uninterested in it. And so the tension between being a part of the family, the community, the culture on their terms or finding your way to contribute to them all on your terms, even if it be from a place of exile.
And so I stumbled into this extraordinary poem by Emily Bronte revealing the whole dynamic. The frowns and insults and gathering evidence to shame, the wisdom to keep the authentic self secret from those unwelcome and prying eyes until such time as it might be revealed, the price one pays for being true to the authentic self and honoring that agreement made before birth. But if one trusts the power of one’s genius walking towards one in that silent winter landscape, if one lights one’s light to invite and guide it, if one keeps their commitment faithful and constant, then what you love will come to you with blessing. A lifetime of seeking will call your spiritual playmates out from their hiding places and you win the game and can finally “just be yourself.”
THE SIGNAL LIGHT
- Emily Bronte
Silent is the house: all are laid asleep:
One alone looks out o’er the snow-wreaths deep,
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the ‘wildering drift, and bends the groaning trees.
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far:
I trim it well, to be the wanderer’s guiding-star.
Frown, my haughty sire! Chide, my angry dame:
Set your slaves to spy: threaten me with shame!
But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know
What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.
What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
What loves me, no word of mine shall e’er betray.
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.
Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear-
Hush! A rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air;
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.