A man went to a tailor to buy a suit. He tried one on and looked at himself in the mirror. It was good, but he noticed the waistcoat was a bit skew. ‘Don’t worry’, the tailor said, ‘just pull the short side down with your left hand and no-one will notice.’ The man did this, and then noticed that one lapel curled up a bit. ‘Oh, that’s nothing’, said the tailor. ‘Just turn your head a little and hold it down with your chin.’ The man tried this, and indeed, all seemed well, except he noticed that the trousers were a bit tight around the crotch and a tad short in the leg. ‘No problem’, said the tailor. ‘Just pull the seam down with your right hand, and that will sort it out.’ The man added this adjustment, and yes, the suit was fine. He bought it and left. The next day, proudly wearing his new suit, with the required adjustments, he walked (a little awkwardly) through the town. Two women, sitting outside a café with their shopping, watched as he limped by. ‘Oh, just look at that poor crippled man!’ said one to the other. Her friend watched a while and then replied, ‘Such a shame to see someone suffer like that. But what a lovely suit he has!’
That’s a retelling from Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, which struck me suddenly this morning. The context is about women (especially), who lose their true selves in being what everyone calls out for them to be. It’s a chapter about folk narratives of having one’s pelt stolen when caught unawares, and about finding one’s way home again to your true soul-self.
It reminded me of something I told no-one until in therapy a couple of years ago with my PSO. Since I was a teenager, I had a frequent and recurrent dream theme, sometimes even in daydream, in which, whatever I was doing, I would be leaning on a walking stick, or on crutches. Time and again I tried to work out what it meant, and never came to an answer. Why should I, a fit and capable person, have this self-image, so persistently? Was it an issue of confidence, of self-esteem? What did the crutches represent? What prop was I using to keep myself going? What was the injury or disability? I wasn’t aware of an injury, there was no ‘bad leg’ in the dreams, just the stick or crutches. Was it psychological, a mental prop, something I was leaning on for moral support, some inadequacy? I never worked it out, there was never a moment of revelation or sudden dawning of understanding.
All I know is that I haven’t had that image in any dream since I came to understand that I was female in a basically male body.
In my first job, I chose to wear a 3-piece suit. In my last job, I was the last person in the organisation to relinquish the tie at work, as dress codes relaxed substantially over the years (yes, irony, if you read ‘The ties that bind’!). I still wore a smart jacket to work every day until the last short while. And my massage therapist (who has treated me for well over a decade) remarked how different I had always been, in being so conventional. I tried too hard, making the suit fit.
Women Who Run With the Wolves has been inspiring in dealing with the primordial self of returning to self, and I interpret my dream theme now as a life-long insecurity with living as male. Smart suit, shame about the limp.
Interestingly, I was having a conversation last night about similar issues. Knowing yourself, your gender, your sexuality, your boundaries, maybe even your morphic field (Google ‘Sheldrake’ on this if it’s new to you) is a real challenge, when you have been shaped by others’ social expectations all your life. Some of us will learn to stand up straight and see that the suit is awry. Others will realise that they can dance to a different music. But all of us have a greater self than we have been dressed as. In personal scope, I have found immense freedom and feel my personal energy and field (aura?) have expanded enormously. For all the trauma of passing through, I would never choose to be as I was ever again.