I give you permission.

As a coach, I give you permission.

By the power vested in me from letters after my name and 1,000 books and 10,000 hours of sweat and 100,000 words on hard-birthed pages and the grudging okay of Professor Half Moon Spectacles Grammar Fascist, by the venerable wisdom of the Toad Goddess, I give you permission.

By the power vested in me from watching human suffering ooze out of pores, by stepping over sewage in slums and men without legs literally crawling on streets and by traveling the world to places where pythons actually do pop out of toilets because toilets are troughs of open river choked with plastic bags, I give you permission not to suffer. Suffering is highly over-rated. It will find you anyway, so don’t chase it.

By the power vested in me from listening and watching and smelling your sadness and finding your fear and vibrating my chest together with yours as the sobs rack your ribs, I give you permission to need a kindly other, a guide, a caregiver, a teacher.

I give you permission to ask for help, to sacrifice your ego on the altar of reality, to admit you don’t know everything and can’t do it solo, to be incomplete and foolish and imperfect and silly and misguided and alone and frightened in the forest and human.

I give you permission to fly with a co-pilot, a navigator, a crew, a team of air traffic controllers and signallers. I give you permission to crawl into a closet and curl up in a ball, to let someone else drive for a change.

I give permission for turbulence on your flight of life and change, for the sphincter-shrivelling panic that you might not make it, for the snotty crying relief that you did. I give permission for nervous fliers, for white-knuckle grabbing the armrests. I give permission for sleeping through the flight. Please return the seats and trays to upright and locked position.

I give you permission not to shrink and cower. I give you permission to take up two seats, to hog armrests, to be big and broad and bold. I give you permission to talk too loudly, laugh too much, curse too much (guilty! unrepentant! fuck you!), especially when that motherfucking barbell doesn’t go up like it should.

I give you permission to fill your shirts, your belly, your life. I give you permission to have lats called meatwings and legs called thunderous and waist called muffin top and hands rough and callused and dirty and chalky with ragged fingernails. I give you permission to honour the hunger that gnaws, especially when you have worked hard and played hard and know you are shovelling sweaty fuel into a raging fire.

I give you permission to be ugly. I give your sweat permission to stink. You earned it. I give you permission to be scrawny and lumpy and uneven and scarred and look like a shaved Chinese crested. People will still love you.

I give you permission not to follow other people’s rules. There are only a few hard-and-fast rules in life like “Don’t be a dick” and “Wash your hands” and “Don’t eat yellow snow” and “Don’t pull the barbell too fast from the floor if you like your kneecaps”. Other than that, your rules are your own. Your rules grow from the soil of the soul in your chest like that poor Russian schmuck with a tree in his lungs, even if that story isn’t true. I say so. It’s a good fairy tale, and like all fairy tales, has a lesson for humanity. Like don’t make deals with evil witches, especially if those evil witches are in your heads.

I give you permission to age. The clock will tick, collagen will fail to turn over, gray hairs will appear one by one like snowflakes. One day you will wake up and wonder what happened to your colon, your knees, your youthful fictions, your boobs, your shits to give, your boyfriends and girlfriends, your hips, your once-jaunty uterus, your ability to digest shrimp. You may as well accept it. You’ll probably be too busy skydiving or finally writing that novel, anyway, or at least high on some good drugs.

I give you permission to fuck up, fail, and fall down. It’s no big deal, seriously. Shush the voice of the angry parent with their own dried-up dreams, the embittered third-grade teacher who said you wouldn’t amount to much, the people who told you that failure is un-survivable and that you will die of shame with skin flayed from your body in front of an audience. Wipe your nose, spit out the blood from biting your tongue, and keep going. You may have no dignity left but it doesn’t matter; you don’t need it to continue.

I give you permission to succeed. You can do this and it will not kill you. You can be better or different or more evolved than you are now, if you want, and are willing to put in the work, ask for help, and reveal the lies in your own bullshit stories like I’m doomed or Life is against me or I’m the kind of person who always / never…

I give you permission to stop. Slow down. Pause. Rest. Step out of the rapids. Clamber up on to the bank, panting and exhausted from fighting the current. Turn around, shivering and wet, and watch the raging water go by. Just for a moment.

I give you permission to be strong. To rage and power through and tremble with effort. To turn your guts to cement and your spine to steel and say FUCK NO or FUCK YES and kick down the door like Mighty Squatto.

I give you permission to be weak. To cave in, collapse, turn cavernous and gelatinous in the face of overwhelming trauma and pain and difficulty. I give you permission to use a one-pound weight as you crawl back to health. I give you permission to snivel in any type of health care provider’s office and say It hurts. I give you permission not to be a badass. Besides, you are not a warrior, unless you actually are in a war, and then you know when you are a warrior or not, and you know that being a warrior is not fun or glamorous nor anything to Instagram about.

I give you permission to be OK. Mediocre. Not bad. Good enough. Adequate. A firm C+ or B-. I give you permission to decide that the cost of superstardom or extreme performance is too expensive and that you would rather spend your sanity on a nice pair of fuzzy socks instead.

I give you permission to make wishes. To dream, fantasize, make up childish and stupid things. I give you permission to imagine yourself and the world as more and better and different than you are. I give you permission to be a ninja, a superhero, a beast. I used to imagine squatting as hydraulics in my legs — rep, rep, rep, like a machine. I imagine I am Bane, even though I am a small middle-aged woman. Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it.

“The shadows betray you, because they belong to me!” (I just say this to people all casual like.)

I give you permission to celebrate. I give you permission to quietly (or loudly) kiss your biceps after your first pullup. I give every tiny success permission to live. You know how significant these insignificant victories are — the first time you move without fear, the first time you make your own choices without the wildly flapping wings of self-criticism in your head, the first time you hold your head high and return life’s gaze, the first time you expose yourself raw to scrutiny, the first step through the gym door.

I give you permission to have the body of your people. To let your flesh sing their songs and tell their stories and show their imprints like cave paintings on rock. To have ancient spells in your genes that make magic, even if that magic is arcane and cryptic to you. Your ancestors didn’t scrabble their way to survival so you could bitch about your hips or your nose or your hair. Be proud. That body comes from a long line of survivors. You don’t even know half the gears in it.

I give you permission to throw out garbage. Like old scripts you cling to. I can’t. I’m weak. I’m not an athlete. Other people are better. Everyone else but me is succeeding. If it’s not perfect it’s terrible. Bad poetry. Dusty boxes in mental attics. Identities that don’t fit you any more. Worldviews full of holes and moth shit.

I give you permission to be greedy. To gorge yourself guiltlessly on life and pleasure. To want more. To ask for more. To deserve more. To fill your soul and let it overflow. I do not give you permission to hoard or steal all the toys, but I do give you permission to play as much as you like.

I give you permission.

I give you permission.

I give you permission.

Photo credit: Andrew Huff