on permission, or, reason #547 why we need friends

The Open Door, from wikimedia

The Open Door, from wikimedia

Reader, I’ve been thinking about permission, and the act of giving and being given permission. Because I’m a nerd, let’s take a look at the word itself (A ha! I thought this might be interesting):

permission n. the action of officially allowing someone to do a particular thing; consent or authorization. From the Latin permittere, “give up, allow” (per – through + mittere – let go, send).

So the word permission implies a crossing over from one state (or place) into another. And it requires the act and the moment of saying ‘yes’ to whatever or whoever is being allowed to go through — the moment of sending/allowing.

The reason I’ve been thinking about permission is that at Monday Poets yesterday, we ended up giving one another permission to do particular things. In our discussions of life and writing, one of us shared that she’s amidst a very generative time, with lots of new ideas and creative impulses — but she feels torn by all the other writing work that needs doing: research, fleshing things out, revision, submissions, etc. As she spoke, I remembered something my excellent friend, The Poet A.O.D., said to me once. She said something like: it’s okay to just ride whatever creative wave you’re caught by right now. So I shared that idea with the MonPoets and said, “I give you permission to ride the wave, to be in that generative flood, to receive what comes without worrying about the other work right now.”

Later in the conversation, after I had detailed all my goals about series of poems I was going to start working on, one of the MonPoets said to me, “I think it would be a good idea for you to just rest and restore yourself after all you’ve been through with your son. I give you permission to take a break.”

That moment was like a door opening for me, a door that I really wanted to go through, a threshold I wanted to cross. I felt so much relief when she said, “I give you permission to take a break.”

Why is it that we sometimes need someone else to give us permission to do something we (consciously or unconsciously) probably know we need to do? I don’t know the reason why. In fact, I really wish I could’ve just given myself permission, and not needed it from someone else. But it is what it is.

Either way, there’s some good and healing power in being given permission. Is there something you need permission to do/not do? Can you give yourself permission to do/not do it? Or, if you can’t, do you have a friend who could give you permission? Just something to think about… .

Meanwhile, I’ll keep plugging along, but minus all the detailed goals for now. I’ll be reading and writing and blogging (perhaps even submitting!), but also sleeping in and going for walks, and making dinner, and reading to my kids. I’ll be claiming the writing life every day, but probably not writing every day.

There are seasons, Reader: creative floods, major and minor family crises, and a bazillion other seasons in this life (in fact, somebody said something about “the holiday season” yesterday, but I’m not sure what they were talking about).

May you always feel you have permission to live the season you’re in the midst of.

6 thoughts on “on permission, or, reason #547 why we need friends

  1. Molly,
    I’ve been contemplating this very topic. Among my friends — artists, musicians, writers — it seems it is the writers who need ‘permission’ to just be. We berate ourselves for not writing, or writing “junk” and on and on. My artist friends never beat themselves up for not painting everyday, yet seems we writers are afraid of losing our writer status if we let go, or let up, for a single day. What’s with us, anyway?

    • I’ve wondered about this, too, Drew. I knew an artist who also wrote, and she used to laugh at us writers — at how self-tortured we are, and yet admitted to falling into it herself when writing, in a way that she didn’t when painting. Is it because writing is something everyone does, but not everyone makes an art of? We’re content to let a sculpture or a painting unfold in mystery — but is writing held to a different standard? That we ought be competent and in control of it? I don’t know… but thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Oh, I am so glad you will rest and have been given or have given yourself permission to do so! I connect with that need for permission, part of my upbringing, time, culture, personality, etc.

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