All day I had felt tense. Locked up. My body and mind tight with the balancing act of weighing all the expectations — those I perceived others had of me, those soceity implies exist even if never directly, and those I had of myself.
I’ve been working my way through a process of dropping the weight of other people’s expectations, of learning to not care if I’m not what society demands. And sometimes I feel like I’m doing okay at that.
But then, like this particular day, when I feel a tension in my body that makes me want to crawl out of my skin, I realise I might still have a way to go.
Because even as I shed weights off my shoulders, it is in my mind that I find there are still bonds. Beliefs I have absorbed and taken on. Words that speak with the sound of my own voice, a running commentary on everything I do — “You can’t do that. You can’t be that. You’ve got to be responsible. You’ve got to be better than this. You can’t do just whatever the hell you want.”
But this day, in recognising this running monologue, I finally answered back.
“Well, why not?”
Why can’t I do just whatever the hell I want?
Reactively, we have a million answers for this. It’s irresponsible. Hedonistic. Unhealthy.
But is it? What would doing whatever we want really look like?
I’ve suspected for a while that I’m an anarchist at heart. It took me a long time to realise this, because I, like I suspect most people, thought of anarchy as simply a synonym for chaos and disorder.
But as a political ideal, it is simply the absence of government control in favour of absolute personal freedom. Extrapolating that to apply to the spirit of life, for me anarchy is the belief that in the absence of external rules and laws, individual people would naturally live their lives doing what is the best for themselves, their communities and their planet.
Yes, if you removed all the rules tomorrow, there would be chaos.
But this is because we haven’t learned how to *not* have rules. We have grown up in a system that tells us life cannot go on without external governance enforcing morality and ‘right’ behaviour. A system that removes our ability to think for ourselves, and creates in us a reliance on someone else telling us what to do and who to be.
I tend to believe it is this system that actually creates the problems it purports to solve.
As I began to learn more about unschooling, or natural learning, and the principles of Permaculture and other ideas that seek to work with nature instead of against her, I began to wonder… what is the natural state of the human being? Is it really the deceitful, destructive, selfish being that we all suspect we would be come if there were no laws to control us?
Or are we, as nature is, naturally designed for order, beauty, connection and growth?
If we grew as children with this as a fundamental belief, and then were given the freedom — and had it modelled to us by enlightened others — to choose for ourselves, to choose to do ‘whatever the hell we want’, would we perhaps not descend into chaos and destruction as so many believe, but would we in fact flow with nature into a natural, beautiful order?
In this environment, what would be the point of hoarding resources or destroying the land you live on? Because that would no longer seem like gain — what is all that, when our hearts and souls are full? When we are embraced, nurtured and loved by everyone around us?
I’m sure it sounds like a fairy tale to some. Like fanciful idealism that can never work in reality. But if we believe it can never be like that, then it never will. In fact, that’s why it isn’t. We believe, and so we act, as if harmony is not truly possible — and by believing that, we make it true.
But what if we all chose to believe the opposite? Couldn’t we also make that true?
A Microcosm of a Beautiful Life
On a large scale, even to me those ideas seem overwhelming — how would we make that happen? Even bringing together a group of people willing to believe it is possible, there would still be a lot of un-learning to do, a lot of de-programming and mind-shifting to happen to stop acting and reacting in the habitual ways of the systems we’ve been sold. To give each other true freedom.
And so whenever I face this question — how do I do this? How do I bring about the world I long for? — I always start with myself.
On the day in question, when I began to question this, my life was small, a little insulated, even a little isolated. But this created a little cocoon, a safe little space to think and learn and express myself and my thoughts as I learned to disassemble the old ways of thinking and really absorb the new.
Like who I *should* be and what I *should* do.
And I said to Ollie, “What if for a day I just did whatever the hell I wanted? Just being whoever I want to be, even if that person is irresponsible and a mess? What if I did that instead of always trying to be someone I’m not?”
And so, the only way to really answer that was to do it, right?
(To trust that there, in that safe microcosm of life, I was changed enough that doing whatever I wanted no longer looked like self-implosion and destruction.)
So what did 24 hours of doing whatever the hell I want look like?
It looked like staying in bed until 12 noon. It looked like sex at the outdoor table in my (private) garden. It looked like real dairy milk in my hot carob drink before bed. Putting on a dress. Eating nachos for breakfast-lunch. Writing this blog outside in the warm breeze and mentioning sex in it.
To be honest, it looked quite a lot like exactly what I would have done anyway.
So perhaps the better question is — how does it feel?
Because it feels like freedom. It feels like living. It feels like lightness. Released from shackles — shackles I could move around and walk in still, but that chafed and made their presence constantly and painfully known. Even if I learned to ignore those shackles and do what I wanted anyway, they could never be forgotten.
I was doing my best at living despite them, but constantly reminded by my own brain — YOU ARE DIFFERENT. PEOPLE ARE JUDGING YOU — with every step.
And so this — doing whatever the hell I want — it doesn’t look like chaos. Because what I actually want looks nothing like chaos.
With absolute personal freedom, I do not seek hedonism and pure indulgence. I do not act for destruction and cruelty.
When I feel safe and loved and truly free to choose, I choose what I really want — and what I really want looks like health and connection and happiness and beauty. I want the world to be a truly wonderful place for all of us.
But what if I eat too much chocolate and get fat?
That was my worry. It sounds silly, a ridiculous thing to be held back by. But I suspect others have the same thought, or something similar.
In letting myself ‘go’ to choose whatever I really want, I wasn’t too concerned about causing large scale destruction, since I mercifully have not been given that kind of world-leading responsibility in life. (Yet.)
But I did fear I would make the kind of simple, mundane, every day decisions that could end up shattering my life. Like eating chocolate all day long — fun or funny, until my lactose, caffeine & sugar sensitive body completely crashed and I became a mess.
And there has been a time when this is just what would have happened — in fact, it probably has happened before.
Like taking away all the laws in Australia tomorrow and seeing what happens — the chaos that would ensue, even if people finally sorted themselves out, would probably be irreparable.
And so it is the inner transformations that must come first.
I trusted this time, on this day, that I had changed enough, un-learned and re-learned enough, that I now knew what I wanted.
And I trusted in the spirit that is in all of us; I trusted that what I truly want is in the best interests of both myself and the world.
So I had dairy milk in my hot carob drink, because I wanted to. And then when I felt a little stuffy from that, I didn’t want milk anymore. I had herbal tea instead.
And I piled my plate high with nachos, because I wanted to. But then when I felt full, I stopped eating. Because I knew I could have cheesy corn chips again whenever the hell I wanted.
(And so I didn’t feel driven to eat them all, with some irrational compulsion that came from feeling like I ‘shouldn’t’ eat cheesy corn chips, and so this may be my last ever chance to eat them, and so I’d better make the most of it…. And by making the most of it, that usually meant eating until I felt sick and wished I’d never seen a plate of a cheesy corn chips in the first place.)
The rules have created the problems, and then convinced me that I just need more rules to fix it all.
Well, no more. I give myself permission to do whatever the hell I want. And I trust that what I want is the best thing for me. And the best possible thing for the world.
Given the freedom to eat whatever I want, I find what I actually want is to feel healthy, have energy and enjoy food.
Given the freedom to do whatever the hell I want, I find what I actually want is to love life, to inspire others and to change the world. Starting with me.