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Self Permission Slips

Four mythical creatures sit around campfire playing music.
Surrounding Myself With Human Permission Slips

Do you remember those old Gatorade commercials from the 1990s featuring Michael Jordan, and that too-catchy song, “Like Mike, if I could be like Mike?” I remember wanting to be like Mike. I’d play with my Nerf basketball hoop on the back of my bedroom door for hours playing “One-on-None.” I got so into it, that I even created a pretend fantasy basketball tournament where I picked 32 colleges and then found 2 NBA legends that played for that college and create a 2-on-2 March Madness-style tournament. I kept stats, scores, and thrived on the final few seconds of potential buzzer beaters. I think North Carolina’s duo ended up being Michael Jordan and James Worthy, but nobody could compete with the University of Houston’s Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. I spent a lot of time pretending to be “Mike.” 

Eventually, things shifted. I grew up, broke my last Nerf Hoop with some ferocious dunk, and never paid the $15 dollars for a new one. It took me quite a bit longer to stop wanting to be other people, however. I’m guessing it was around age 35 when I became much more interested in becoming the best version of me. I spent a lot of time on the practice of being someone else between 35 and age 8, which is the time I sense that I lost the permission to be myself.

I’ve pinpointed a few reasons I believe it happened around 8. My parents divorced. Natural social evolution. The biggest one, however, was probably due to the Mormon Church. You see, I’m sitting here in my 40s trying to really hone in on the type of vibe I hope to walk through life with, and I keep coming back to my 8-year-old self. The one that believed in super heroes and super human strength. The one that thought any future job was possible, and the one who sure as hell didn’t give a fuck if he was liked by the opposite gender, or if my clothes matched, or if I had a developing muffin top and a receding hairline. I want 8-year old Tony’s attitude back, and I mourn that I lost that. 

When I really sit and think about it, it makes total sense. For those unfamiliar, the Mormon church teaches 8-year olds that they are sinful, and need to be cleansed of their sins by becoming baptized. This comes with the “benefit” of membership into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where young children learn that the “Holy Ghost” is their intermediary to God, and it is only through God’s mercy that one can reach heaven. There’s even the additional caveat that no human could have done that on their own and only through Jesus’s atonement (dying for the “sins of mankind” in order to establish a human’s pathway to heaven) could a person be saved. What a gift, right? Well, psychologically, this began the process of me outsourcing my worth to Jesus, God, Bishop, Priesthood holder, and every other Joe, Dick, and Harry not named Tony Pizza. 

I have no doubt that people not associated with the Mormon church outsource their worth in similar ways. After all, we do live in a society where capitalism thrives on us not feeling good about ourselves and looking up to “role models” for how they dress, where they live, and how they do everything, including dunking a basketball with a tongue waving about.

So what does this have to do with Permission Slips? Well, so far this has been a short gloss of how I think I lost mine, and I’ve been on a six-years-plus mission to get it back. It’s a rewarding journey, and the steepest uphill climb I’ve ever experienced. Listening intently to that inner voice that holds my integrity is no small feat considering the overwhelming extent and layers of external noise. Spiritual practices like yoga, meditation, ice baths, sweat lodges, plant medicine journeys etc., become sacred havens to turn down the volume knob. Therapy is invaluable, too.

I’d love to give credit to probably my most significant facilitator once I had my foundation and bearings, those humans who helped me gain my self permissions slips. 

I hope you have the pleasure of knowing the type of person I’m talking about. Those people that undeniably march to the beat of their own drum, let out their weird, their shit, their magnificence, and seam to have a really good relationship with not giving a single fuck what other people think. A key for me in recognizing my human permission slips is the authenticity they possess. It feels so damn real when someone is doing their thing because they know it feels good to them rather than do it because they might catch the attention of others. 

In the forest of my recent life’s experience, I see human permission slips all around me.

I see married couples giving each other permission to pursue their hearts’ desire and hold those experiences with intense compersion. I see community friends exploring their sexuality, I see other men just exploring what it means to have feelings and feel safe around other men in brotherhood. I see college students in America, and folks worldwide bringing awareness to a situation on the Gaza strip that I don’t quite understand, yet can’t stop feeling sick about and constantly question what role our government plays in the annihilation of a group of people and I see Macklemore using his platform to educate people instead of worry about his Instagram following. I watch my daughter embrace her inner-lesbian, my son embrace his sexual fluidity, my other son teaching me about pronouns, the trans-movement, and gender definitions. I see my youngest son moving beyond that 8-year old threshold with spiciness and humor, and permission to have his emotions and not being ridiculed for being an youngster with emotions.

I see friends in their tie-dye and fanny packs showing up wherever they go in the costumes they’ve constructed instead of the one’s issued by a conformist society. I see my mom rocking her tie-dye and art up in a conservative farm town, my brother showing up in a bi-racial relationship and raising their son in a country that hasn’t learned yet to see the content of one’s character instead of the color of one’s skin. I see my sister and brothers putting their middle finger up in a posh Montana ski town leading their own hippie revolution in their overalls and bare feet. 

I see my amazing wife rocking her halter-top belly shirts, chopping her bangs, shaking her ass, hot tubbing without a swim suit, loving on her friends, sculpting her inner circle, taking her name off the Mormon Membership List, and finding her voice whether it be about patriarchy or once close friends marginalizing another close friend. I see her embracing her sour dough, love of flowers, and her delicious body, while healing and rewriting ancestral wounds. I see her introducing me to two of the most amazing Permission Slip writers of all.

The guys who run the Mormons on Mushroom podcast are busy writing a their own permission slips as they transition out of Mormonism and incidentally write slew of permissions slips, to ex-Mormons with their humor, deconstruction, and wit. I see those same men also writing their own permission slips penning their song lyrics and putting them to a guitar tune. Here is where the “Be Like Mike” sentiment comes full circle for me.

I’ve owned a guitar since I was 16 years old. I’ve learned to play notes all my life, but I never really knew how to play the instrument until I was inspired by these two last summer at Solstice Revival. The pleasure that came when these two played songs they knew was palpable. The passion and soul that came when they shared songs they wrote themselves helped me begin writing my own permission slip. I didn’t want fall into the pattern of trying to “Be Like Mike” in this case. I've graduated to wanting to “Be Like Tony” in the same way these two guys were giving themselves permission to be themselves. I've learned all about my wild heart and found the permission to follow it because I saw so much of myself in them. Irreverent, Passionate. Thoughtful. Poetic. Authentic. I can only hope I have a little of their good looks. 

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5 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

You will always have good's a curse and a blessing . Love, mom

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