"Wild" is Not a Four Letter Word

"Call the soul what you like -- one's marriage to the wild, one's hope for the future, one's fluming energy, one's creative passion, my way, what I do, the Beloved, the wild groom, the 'feather on the breath of God.'"

-- Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves


She said it like it was a bad thing, the worst thing, the worst thing that I could possibly have done to anyone, or to her.  "When you were a little girl," she said, "you were wild."  The word sounded like it tasted of acid, and I could practically feel rogue drops of it singing my skin.

I believed her.  I listened to "wild" turn to a four letter word on her lips.  To be wild was to be bad.  A problem.  I listened, and I wilted.

For a while.

* * *

Even when I knew I wasn't supposed to, I hated the rule-breakers and rebels in the books and movies I took in as a growing-up person.  I knew that this people were the protagonists, the ones who made positive and needed changes, but they irritated me.  Why couldn't they just be quiet and play by the rules?  Why couldn't they just be good?

Begrudgingly, I looked on as their wild ways led to Very Good Things, and by the end I was cheering them on in spite of myself. 

But I also kind of hated them.  Because the way they lived wasn't real life, wasn't really possible.  Even though some of these stories and characters were non-fictional.

I knew, though.  I knew about acting out, speaking up, going a different way.  I knew that these were detestable qualities.

* * *

I was good for a long time. 

I did the right things, said the right things, didn't think too much, and stayed small.  I traded my freedom for safety.  Because that was The Way Things Are.  The best way.


* * *

It took thirty years until "good" started tasting stale as I tried to choke it down each day, a metaphorical medicine of sanitized half-living.

Thirty years for me to awaken to myself at last.  So late, but not too late, not nearly. 

It started with death, of course.

A death that shouldn't have, couldn't have been, if all the rules I'd been [not] living by were true. 

But it did happen.  My womb became a garden, but when it opened, it only blossomed for silent, raging, impossible stillbirth.

Where was the safety that I'd bartered away so many of my soul's treasures for?  The safety I'd been firmly promised?

That was the beginning.  Because I [re]birthed my self then, too.

* * *

All of a sudden, I fell in love with those rebels I saw in books and movies.  The same ones I'd resented from the self-imposed prison of my own smallness.  Before they were threatening to my delusions, to the lies that had been sold to me as rock hard truth.

But now?  Oh, now!  They were the way-showers, the possibility-makers!  They were deliciously unpredictable, innovative, inspiring, outspoken, deep thinking, and -- gasp -- wild.

And I discovered with a rush of terror and exhilaration that I wanted to be wild, too.

* * *

Once I got that first whiff of wildness, I was ravenous for it.  I sought it out, even when I didn't know what "wild" even meant.  I searched for, stalked, salivated for it. 

Because some part of me knew -- had always known -- that my wildness was everything.  It was my power. My ability to love, to breathe deep, to dream, to truly live. To be.

And it had been taken from me.  Well, at first it was taken.  Then I started handing it over willingly. 

But no more.  Now it was my turn to do the taking -- taking back my wild essence.  And so I did, imperfectly, clumsily, with great need.  And so I continue to.

* * *

What is "wild," though?


It depends on you, really.  Only you can decide on how to embrace the goodness of your wild.

For me, wild means: authentic. brave. true. deep. self-loving. health. challenging the status quo when needed. asking questions, even (especially) the hard ones. listening when the answers are uncomfortable. loving others fiercely, but also with healthy boundaries. gratitude. everyday magic. creation. making one's own way. freedom.

I also see these images as wild: the crescenting moon, wide expanses of sky and ocean and earth, wolf packs and mother bears, dancing ecstatically, flame, darkness and light, laughing and speaking and love-making without holding back, and so, so many colors. 

None of these "definitions" (for lack of a better word), it should be noted, are destructive or inherently negative.  Many of them are difficult, yes, or may lead to destruction.  But I see the hard and destructive side of wildness as necessary -- the kind of hardness that leads to needed growth, and constructive deconstruction.  Wildness doesn't doesn't destroy purely for the sake of destruction, I think.

* * *

"Wild" is no longer a four letter word to me.  I think of how it was spoken over me with such derision, and my lip curls at the untruth born of the speaker's own traded-away-wildness, and in empathy at the little girl who was taught to be in ways unnatural and contrary to her soul.

Because a child should be wild.  It is her work to be wild, playful, adventurous, all in her own way.  And a woman should be wild, too, just as wild as men are allowed (and encouraged) to be. 

I should be wild, because I need to be.  Because that is where my heart is, where my soul dwells.  Because it is me.  And I will defend it, and my right to it, and your right to it, and all people's right to it.


"The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door."

-- Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves


Your turn -- what does wildness mean to you?  Do you want to be more wild?  What stops you?


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