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Facing the wall

This entry was written after a brief visit in my hometown in Sweden at the end of April 2005. It's a bit more personal.

I visited a friend, to relax and recharge. It was a very short stay, just a few days, and wise from earlier experiences I had very few plans. It's so easy to try to cram too much in, to stress from this to that.

Not this time. I had booked my best friend for the weekend, since spending time with her, and visiting my mother's grave, was the whole purpose of the trip. Because my friend is safe and comforting. Stress and uncertainties just flow away in her company.

That's a bit interesting, I think. There are people like that, who are so secure in who they are, so much in balance that it kind of rubs off. Of course, in this case it helps that we have a very stable relationship. It's safe. We know each other very well, like an old married couple but without any of the complications that come from having a romantic or sexual relationship.

We have been very close friends since 1992, and still are despite me moving to another country in 1999. And it's always been very simple and straightforward. If you want something, you ask, and you accept both a yes and a no without there being anything more to it.

That's how it ought to be in all relationships. Regardless if you are friends, buddies, lovers, married, relatives, colleagues... Unfortunately, that's not very common. You feel obliged, that it's expected, that you must.

That's when you bring up those old philosophers, Aleister Crowley and Mikael Rickfors.

"Do as thou wilt is the whole of the law."

"To do what you must is to do what you want."

I mean, that's how simple it is. Or how simple it ought to be. So why isn't it?

You are solely morally responsible for your actions. You are solely responsible for your life. You are solely responsible for your happiness.

Sure, other people, or institutions, or illnesses or accidents or whatever can affect your situation, but that's another matter. That's circumstances. What you do in the circumstances you find yourself in is your responsibility. And responsibility isn't anything most feel comfortable with.

"Excuse me?" some readers are bound to say here. "There are loads of people who are looking for responsibilities."

Well, no. There are loads of people who are looking for a reason to feel special and important. That's a completely different matter. Often it's just about material security, since more responsibility you can get more money, or power over others, and if you have money and power it's easier to get laid.

Okay, so that's a bit harsh, but think it over. Many people take on a lot of responsibilities without accepting responsibility. There are always excuses, from the tried and tested "I was drunk" to "Nobody informed me".

You can see a lot of that in the news and around you.

If you accept that you are responsible for your actions you can't lie to others and yourself. And you can't pretend you are responsible for other people, as they are their own responsibility.

Are you familiar with the word "grok"? To understand and accept something fully, on all levels.

You can accept, on an intellectual level, that you are responsible. Often, that is merely surface knowledge. A bit deeper down, you don't really want to accept it. Because to accept full responsibility for your life and your actions, on all levels, is the bravest thing anyone can ever do.

To reject all excuses. To stand up to be judged, by oneself and others.

Rather than take that great step, you can set yourself limits. Barriers that prevent you from doing things you want to do, but don't want to take responsibility for. You put them up as a defence against yourself.

That's not always a bad thing. If you're impulsive and have a short fuse, you can put up a barrier to stop you from hitting out indiscriminately. If you're feeling a bit horny and see a sexy person it's good to have a barrier preventing you from simply ripping their clothes off in the middle of the street.

Most people have an internal animal, and that animal often reacts instinctively and irrationally.

(The soundtrack of this entry, by the way, is Def Leppard's 'Animal'. I'm listening to it in my head as I'm writing. Try to find it and listen to it if you're not familiar with it. Oh, and if you haven't done so already, go and read Terry Pratchett's Night Watch - it's one of his best books to date and was first meant to be called 'The Nature of the Beast'.)

And we all know what happens to these barriers and inhibitions when people are drunk, stoned or scared.

You build a cage around the beast, since you don't want to be held responsible for what it does in your name. But not everybody is skilled at building cages.

We're all familiar with the weak cages, those that fall apart after a couple of beers. I think most people know someone with that kind of cages, and someone who have met people like them. The guys that stagger around at nightclubs and squeeze the breasts and butts of girls they don't know. The guys who go out looking for fights simply because it feels so damn good to give in to the rage, to just hit and hit without thinking.

A Friday or Saturday night around town, right? Not that it's only guys who build weak cages, but you already knew that.

But what about the people who are really good at building? Too good?

Think about that. Barriers that prevent you doing what you want to do, because you don't want to accept responsibilities for your actions. There's a conflict there.

I'm good at building. I've talked about that before. I've put up a lot of masks, over many years, and the last few years I've been working on getting rid of them. It's not easy, or painless, but I'm getting there.

My friend, who I went to visit, has been the one who has helped me most. She has asked the questions that have made me think, made me see the masks. And this weekend we had a look at cages. Because you don't just put them up around your internal animal, but around other things as well.

Think about that a bit, see where they come from, what they cage in.

I prevent myself from doing something I want because...

You need to keep track of your cages and barriers. Not take them for granted. You've got to ask yourself 'why?'. Just like with masks.

If you've ever noticed you've stopped yourself doing something you want to do you've found a barrier. Something you've caged in. 'I won't do that.'

Not necessarily because you don't want to do it, but maybe because you don't want to take responsibility for doing it. Or maybe you've put up a barrier around something close by, and caged in more than you had planned to.

'You don't do that' it says on the sign on the cage.

Okay. Fine.

But do you still agree? In all circumstances? Would you be able to climb over the barrier or open the cage door if you needed to?

Many of these barriers come from childhood, and you haven't come up with them yourself. Boys don't cry. You don't hit girls. You don't tell on others.

You don't do that.

And it goes on. You don't look at girls' breasts and bodies. Not so it shows. You don't steal, not so it shows.

They tend to be more absolute when you get them as a child, which is understandable.

And they can be very, very strong. You can pound on the walls you've put up, want to break them down, because you want to do something, and you're prepared to accept full responsibility. But you've drawn a line in the sand, built a wall on it, a cage keeping you in.

I haven't cried for real since 1993. I've wanted to, but not been able. I've felt the lump in my throat, a tear may have rolled down my cheek, but I haven't been able to let go.

I'll not talk about where that barrier came from, but it's rather late. Well, of course I got it as a child, but that wall was never so high I couldn't climb over it when I needed to. But in 1993, I raised it high over my head, reinforced it and put electrified barbed wire on top of it.

I didn't cry when my mother died in 2003. I had a lump in my throat at the funeral, but didn't cry. This visit in my hometown was the first time I went to her grave. I got a lump in my throat, which I hadn't expected.

If this was fiction, I would have cried, there and then, because my friend who was with me there had helped me break that wall down. But this isn't fiction, and I didn't cry.

But she has helped me understand that walls can be demolished, that the cages you've made for yourself can be opened. She didn't take me there, but she showed me the way. You have to walk that road yourself, but you don't have to be alone on your journey. Without here, I wouldn't even have known what direction to start in.

You can let yourself do something you want to do.

If you can accept the responsibility and question yourself. If you're brave enough. If you dare to see your walls for what they are.

Anybody got a jackhammer?


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