It’s a funny word and one that I’ve been thinking about lately. Whenever I take a moment and reflect, it occurs to me that I’ve been seeking permission for most of my life. First, from my parents and then from my friends. Later on, I looked for permission from my boyfriends, my husband, even my kids.
I’m not entirely sure, though, what it is I’m hoping to get permission for. Am I looking for someone to tell me it’s okay to be myself? That it’s okay to say the words out loud that only bounce around the strict confines of my skull? Am I looking for permission to do the things I fear to do? To be someone different? Am I looking for permission to live? To have fun? To move on from the grief I live with constantly? Maybe it’s all of it.
To be honest, I’m a bit of a coward. I know by asking for permission to do what I want, to be who I want, I’m just trying to shift the responsibility of taking an action onto someone else. What happens if I try this writing gig because a friend or a colleague has given me permission and it doesn’t work out? I’ve now just given myself an out, someone to blame for my failure. Someone other than myself. How convenient.
I know that no one can give me permission to live my life except for me. I do. I really do.
On the widow boards that I frequent, there was a thread asking if their spouse gave them permission to move forward with their life after their spouse’s death. To find someone else. To fall in love again. To build a new life that doesn’t include their departed. Some widows had this difficult conversation. Some got the permission from their spouse. Others didn’t have the conversation at all, either because they didn’t dare or because their spouse’s death was sudden and there was no time to talk.
For the record, James gave me permission. And for the record, I dismissed it outright. The idea of moving on with someone other than James made me sick to my stomach.
“James gave you the most amazing gift, Stacey,” B told me when he asked me the very same question. I know this. But knowing doesn’t make moving on any easier.
I also know something else, and it came to me in a flash as I was reading through all the widow’s posts on the thread. It suddenly occurred to me that it didn’t matter if widows and widowers had the conversation with their husbands or wives before they died. It didn’t matter if their dying spouse gave them permission or if the conversation was avoided at all costs. It didn’t even matter if their spouse died before they could talk.
You can have all the permission in the world to do something, but you won’t until you give yourself that permission first.
Permission can’t be found in other people or situations or silly signs that look to be sent from above.
Permission can only be found deep in your heart, in your soul.
“Do you have a time frame, Stacey, when you think it will be okay for you to move on with your life?” My therapist, like all good therapists, likes to ask the hard questions.
I thought about this for a moment and shook my head.
“No. I think – no, I know – I’ll know when to move on when I see it. When I feel it. I can’t put a date or a time frame on this sort of thing. It will happen when it happens and it will take as long as it takes.”
I have faith in myself to know when the time is right. And when that time comes, I have to believe that I will be gentle with myself and grant myself permission to move forward, to be who I want to be. Not because someone else told me that it’s okay. Not because it’s expected or necessary or even deemed the right thing to do by someone looking in from the sidelines of my life.
It’ll be because I know it’s okay.