I have always had a love/hate relationship with authority. Tell me that I can’t do something, and I am very likely to do just that because you have no authority over me. However, people with authority (like the police, my boss, teachers, and my mom) tend to scare me a bit. I worry about how they will see me. If I am good enough at what I do or I appear to not be a troublemaker, maybe they won’t pay too much attention when I break the rules over here. I sometimes wonder if I adamantly describe myself as a “pagan” because of the anti-authority streak that runs through our community.
But I like to know the rules. I feel safe with rules. I don’t believe in always following them. The big ones, the important ones? Sure. The smaller ones that don’t seem to matter much (at least to me), or that would be harmless to break? I usually say, “break ‘em.” But I need to know what they are first.
I’m working my way through a cluster of feelings, attitudes, and beliefs about myself, other people, the world, and the nature of reality myself. Why do I have such mixed feelings about authority? Why do I knowingly break rules? Why this need to rebel coupled with the need to appear good? Who inside me is the teenaged punk-rock rebel? Who inside me is the good little girl who dances on command? Where in my life did these come from?
So many issues I am dealing with in my life seem to spring from one source in my early teen years. Issues of depression, anger, emotional numbness, hyper-indendepency, mistrust, sexuality, and spirituality — so many threads that are leading me back to the same causal nexus that was simultaneously a revelation, an initiation, and a betrayal.
For more than half my life I have lived under the shadow of betrayal. In the last 20 years I have been struggling to crawl out. In the last 6 years, I have been doing this work consciously. And I’m just now beginning to see how everything weaves in and out and around this pivotal series of events, this family secret.
I was talking with my artist mentor last week about the meaning of my art in my life and in my spiritual work. I talked about my ambivalence toward truth — what is real, what is not real, what is me, what is not me, what needs to be said, what needs to remain silent — and how I question whether I can speak to my spiritual group and the people I mentor with any authority. He suggested that my artwork be that vehicle to express my explorations into this ambivalence. Which got me thinking that perhaps the very nature of visual arts holds that ambivalence of speaking truth without making any type of claim for ultimate authority that the written or spoken word often implies.
Conversations this past week have sparked images rising up half-formed from the unconscious cauldron of chaos to float in my mind’s eye. As I “follow the juicy thread,” I realize that before I can trust my animus or daimon, I need to go back into my shadow and struggle with this part of myself and my history again. I have tried to write and speak about the heart of this causal nexus for a while, but my throat closes every time. Perhaps my hands working with paints, glue, beads, paper, and thread will have an easier time of it.