One day I had a few hours before meeting a friend for lunch, so I went to the Target department store. I was presenting as female that day. I walked wherever I wanted to, and nobody paid any attention to me. I started with some blue jeans. I mixed in some colorful tops with creative cuts and lovely fabrics. I tried on dresses, skirts, rompers, capris, jackets, cardigans, overalls … everything. I literally tried every woman’s style and cut in the store. All of it. And it. Was. Glorious!
With each new outfit, I’d look in the mirror, spin around to see all sides, and think, “Yeah, I could wear this. I could wear this too. I could pull this off. And this. Even this! Wow!”
Truly astounding, it was ALL my style. It felt free and fun and full of endless possibilities, like a Caribbean all-inclusive resort vacation in eternity.
But it got me thinking, I’ve never heard any woman have this experience of every style being their style. I’ve never experienced that as a man. Everybody eliminates most styles because “I can’t pull this off. You can pull this off, but not me. That one doesn’t suit me. This just isn’t me.”
What was different about this for me today? The question was profound. It haunted me in the best ways and wouldn’t let me go. I knew there was a crucial nugget of understanding and realization in it for me.
It was a couple of days later, after my regular Jungian therapy session, that the thought came to me. It’s because Hope doesn’t have an Ego yet. My male self has 40 years of built-up ego/reputation/persona to defend, uphold, maintain, and protect so that everyone will keep seeing him the same way, and he can keep having the same influence. But Hope … doesn’t have an ego yet … because she isn’t a person yet. Sure, she’s a human, but she hasn’t claimed and constructed her personhood yet, which is so much equal to an Ego.
Perhaps this feeling of freedom and unity I felt when I was Hope, when I flowed through the world as an anonymous woman … working, shopping, eating, relaxing, laughing … was just what it felt like to be free from ego? To live a life free of the built-up expectations of persona and burst free into the pure nakedness of anything?! And what would happen if I worked toward releasing ego in my male self? I bet I could get closer to that freedom as a male, but that would take courage. And as scary as it was at first to be a female in the world, being my ego-less Female self actually takes less courage than changing the ego of my Male self.
Because the reality I knew then, and that has proven true since that time, is that if I let Hope live in the world with relationships and friends and integrate her world, she will gain an ego … people will layer her with an ego too. Sure, in Target this day, she can wear anything because no one expects her to wear certain styles, but soon, I will perceive that people will expect certain things from Hope, and I will try to maintain those, too. She will get an ego. And if I’m not aware enough, she will lose her freedom, too. Then I’ll be back where I started.
Because the temptation for me was to think that Hope was free because she was truly me. That was partially true. Hope was my true essence without an ego, so she felt free, because she was; I was. But I’m so glad I saw what she really was … a sign of how much my Male self was enslaved to ego and reputation. It wasn’t that I needed to be Hope. It’s that I needed to free my masculine self from its ego and reputation. No wonder my male self didn’t feel free. He wasn’t. But he could be. And my feminine courage could help him.
So I started the journey away from Hope … toward hope.