If I had to guess, I'd say your bladder is two or three times the size of mine. Seems I have a teeny one. Probably I have a small large intestine, too. At home, I make tracks to the toilet far more often than does my husband; at work, my colleagues sometimes rap on the restroom door, tell me to get a move on. Whatever the reason, I am a peeing and pooping marvel.
It has occurred to me that I might be full of sh*t.
Indeed, this may come close to the truth. Although I grew up during the societal upheaval of the 1960s and 70s, my conservative mother and father, fundamentalist church members and rural neighbors did their best to keep the 1950s in full swing.
Children obeyed their parents. The spared rod spoiled the child. A woman's place was in the home, or in the hospital, delivering the latest baby. The Bible, especially as interpreted by our denomination, was the final authority on all matters of life and living.
These and other similarly self-evident truths I swallowed whole.
Only as my palette developed did I begin to sort out what is healthful and wholesome from what tastes likes crap. Looking back I feel abashed at some of the beliefs I held. No, I feel sorry for the youngster who ingested whoppers such as these: I am a good boy. My sole chance at happiness in this life and the next rests upon my being good.
A good boy always makes God and his mother happy, not necessarily in that order.
As a good boy my self-worth depends on how well I please my mother.
A good boy follows the rules and does as he is told.
A good boy does not get angry.
A good boy has neither sexual thoughts nor sexual desires. And never, never sexual experiences.
Every good boy marries a good girl when he grows up.
These principles and their ilk hung in the air I breathed. They were stirred into my morning oatmeal. They were repeated by school teachers and radio preachers. We prayed them aloud at bedtime. Some I didn’t seriously examine until I came out as a gay man.
I started doing many things differently then. One, I pay attention to my nighttime dreams, peer into an interior world I long ignored. Recently I attended a weekend dream retreat led by a Jungian analyst who is also a Catholic nun. As I told her, a consistent dream theme for me is the elimination of bodily wastes.
“That’s usually a very positive dream symbol,” she said. “It may mean you are getting rid of a lot of shit.” (The Catholic clerics I know seem quite willing to use words good boys avoid.)
She set me thinking. In both my waking and sleeping hours I spend much time on the toilet. What lessons this humble instrument offers! Oh porcelain fount that every day—several times a day—washes away and makes clean.
I marvel at your ability to accept that which good boys don’t want to touch, smell, admit, own.
You have learned the secret of letting go. You swallow a lot of shit; people dump loads onto, into you, but you allow it to flow through and away.
You model non-attachment. Grasp nothing. Material things are not worth holding onto. There is wisdom and utility and joy in release.
You understand with deep knowing, “This, too, shall pass.”
You do your work without complaint, without ado, no need for accolades.
I am flush with gratitude.
This essay appeared in the July 2009 issue of The Letter