Becoming Your Own Authority - Shannon McLaughlin

Hey Party People,


I have such a SPECIAL gift for you this week. The post below was not written by me but by another beautiful, connected, and pure soul. Her name is Shannon and I asked if she would be willing to write this week's post. She was able to beautifully articulate some of the feelings I was feeling about returning to "normal", but unable to put into words, as we navigate closer and closer to "Freedom Day," as our premier calls it (aka July 1st, when all provincial health restrictions will be lifted) it's important to reflect on what that really means.


Do we really want to go back to the lives we once lived? Shannon's words below express how important it is to listen and stay connected to ourselves and to become our own authority.


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My friends on social media know that for the past several weeks I’ve been somewhat loudly processing my feelings about the rush to return to the way things were before our lives were radically transformed by a global pandemic. While I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the people I love, I’m reluctant to jump back into the daily grind of a society with values so different from mine. Over the past year, I’ve been contemplating the powerful influence of our collective social conditioning, and how we internalize disempowering messages from the status quo. As we go back to “normal”, it has never been more important to challenge these messages and reclaim our personal authority.


We come into this life as individual souls with unique gifts and purpose. This gets lost under the pressure of culture, media, and social expectation. For practical reasons, the values peddled by society have rewarded conformity. Following the French & American Revolutions, the collective priority has been to build new leadership models, establishing democratic institutions to govern the collective. Ancient bonds of kinship were replaced (often forcibly) with compulsory allegiance to the nation-state. Loyalty and conformity were rewarded, as this ensured the survival of the state. With trust placed in the state, people then concentrated on supporting the community which upheld the new social contract.


But when community meets capitalism, we are left with an economic system that serves very few at the expense of the many. The majority of individuals become disempowered to make their own choices, starved of intimacy and connection in systems that prioritize and protect Maleness and Whiteness. We are measured and evaluated every step of the way, starting at birth. We are all expected to be on the same timeline, to make progress in the same way, to work in the same way with the same abilities. People become disconnected from themselves and their sacred gifts, and we are left with a culture that attempts to soothe this misalignment with consumerism and vanity. We are pressured to constantly work and hustle for money, survival, attention, and power.


When we think about the source of this pressure, it can feel like the call is coming from inside the house. It is not. The pressure is an echo. We aren’t born with these expectations of ourselves and others; they originate outside of us and are internalized over time. They are the voices of those surrounding us and their attempts to direct us back into their frame of reference. The institutions created during the past several hundred years have encouraged this – the heteronormative family unit, the school system, the workplace, the government. We are steeped in an environment of voices and opinions like amniotic fluid. That we absorb and react to them is not our fault.


Being alone for the past year has given me the space I needed to detach from this program and to listen for my own voice. When we each rediscover and reconnect with our internal guidance, we become the only authority of our lives. The grip of society loosens. It becomes no longer necessary to seek a job, a relationship, or an advertisement to tell you that you are okay. You already KNOW you are. When we listen to ourselves, we already know what’s right. We know that we are the only authority of ourselves and our lives. No system can give us what we must claim for ourselves.


The challenges of the past year ignited widespread change to question our structures, systems, and authorities. During the pandemic we’ve experienced powerful movements like Black Lives Matter, and strong reactions to injustice such as the breaking apart of conventionally tacit support for colonialism at the expense of Indigenous peoples. Individual voices have been speaking up and speaking loudly. It is clear from these changing times and changing energy that we are entering a new era. We can look to the lessons from these times to prepare us for what is ahead.


There is still much to learn from the specific conditions of the pandemic in order for the collective to evolve for the better. I personally feel some pressure to have figured out an “answer” to the dream of a better future. But we don’t have to have all the answers, or to propose perfect, infallible ideas. It’s much simpler than that. We need to trust our inner authority, let go, and allow the space for new possibilities to form and to be expressed.



About this week's Writer:

Shannon McLaughlin is a writer from Calgary, Alberta. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Fire and Contemporary Verse 2 and was shortlisted for Room Magazine’s Short Forms contest. In 2015, she was a residency participant in “Writing Life: Exploring Home in a Global Context” at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She was born and raised in Grande Prairie, Alberta.