Have you ever had a line from a movie settle so deep into your bones that you know without a doubt it was written for you and there’s no convincing you otherwise?
That, for me, is this line from The Family Stone: “You have a freak flag; you just don’t fly it.”
No holiday season is quite complete without multiple viewings of this beautiful film while sipping a hot beverage and wrapping presents. Oh, ple-e-ease tell me you’ve seen it.
The movie centers around the calamitous meeting of our very high-strung heroine, Meredith Morton, and her would-be fiancé’s family, the Stones. Her heightened anxiety is palpable and positively cringe-worthy. To say the meeting is disastrous would be an understatement.
My armchair assessment of Meredith is that she’s so tightly wound around expectations of how she should act, it interferes with her ability to connect in a meaningful way to the members of her beau’s family.
It’s no secret we live in a culture of conformity.
We are surrounded daily by messages telling us how we should be, do, think, look, feel, and act – from familial pressures to corporate culture. To stand out from the crowd means to run the risk of rejection and become the target of negative attention. The prospect of rejection is not only painful, it runs counter to our very real and deep-seated instinct to stay with the pack. Just the thought of disapproval can get our fear receptors firing, putting us into a neurochemical panic.
I want to affirm how scary it can be to show up as yourself. And I want to remind you of these wise and wild words:
“TO BE OURSELVES CAUSES US TO BE EXILED BY MANY OTHERS, AND YET TO COMPLY WITH WHAT OTHERS WANT CAUSES US TO BE EXILED FROM OURSELVES.”
CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS
In Dr. Estés’ telling of The Ugly Duckling in Women Who Run With the Wolves we bear witness to the torment experienced by the little duckling who moves from house to house and pond to pond only to discover that each new place is yet another where he doesn’t belong.
At story’s end – spoiler alert! – the duckling is finally greeted by those of his own kind who recognize him for the beautiful creature he is, a magnificent swan. This moment, however, is not quite the turning point. The real magic happens when the now fully grown swan sees his own reflection on the surface of the water and, for the first time, recognizes who he truly is.
In contrast to the story of the ugly duckling, our protagonist Meredith is, for the most part, met with warm welcome by the Stone family (the one exception being the youngest sister, played by Rachel McAdams). Their warm openness contrasted with Meredith’s chilly rigidity make it clear that her inhibitions are born from within. We get the impression she is host to a slew of internalized expectations and critical messages about how she should show up in such a situation. These messages are running the show, not Meredith, and they’re blocking authentic connection.
Meredith finds her reflection in the unlikely mirror of Ben Stone, a comically uninhibited character, and just the right person to create a safe haven for our swan-in-waiting, Meredith, to come home to herself. (The beers help, too.)
There is something so magical at the turning point of the movie when Meredith has what can only be described as a “f-ck it” moment. From that point she adopts an almost rebellious stance: speaking her truth and owning her actions, even when it’s hard. The pain of keeping up pretense has outweighed the fear of showing up as herself.
It’s only when she’s able to stake her claim to who she is and stand in her truth – hoisting her freak flag, even if only a little – that she can begin to relate authentically and connect in a meaningful way to the others.
When we are able to see ourselves for who we truly are and create a safe haven within our own hearts and minds for her to exist, we emerge a beautiful swan.
It won’t always mean you’ll be at home with everyone you meet, but it is the only true basis for real, lasting connection. Both with others and, more importantly, with yourself.
My wish for you this season is that you are able to return home to yourself, even if only for a brief moment amid the holiday hustle and bustle. I hope you will take the time to create a warm, cozy nest for yourself – surrounded by all your quirky creature comforts – to let your freak flag fly, sweet and low or sky-high.
Make it glorious. And know in your bones that who you are is so essential.
In the words of Marianne Williamson, “You give your greatest gifts when you are flying fully and freely.”
I want to hear from you. Have you seen the movie? Do you love it? What’s your favorite way to let your freak flag fly? Please share in the comments!
In Love & Wildness,