Posted by: minnow | January 15, 2009

BEING Free

One of the most powerful scenes in a movie is near the final momments of the movie Braveheart when William Wallace screams Freedom.  Born out of his pain is the knowledge he is free and he passed his passion to be free on to all who were watching (in his audience and in the movie’s).   My friend Shelby at Radically Authentic recently wrote an exceptional piece about what she learned in 2008. Check it out here! Her two biggest lessons seem to be about being in the moment and being in the moment. Both are fitting topics for this blog but today I will tackle being, being free.

The greatest challenge (at least for me) about being in the moment is that I have spent most of my adult life trying not to be. At least, trying not to be me. Now, as soon as I wrote that I thought of those individuals who are suicidal and literally try not to exist. I almost deleted what I wrote because it sounded like so much hyperbole. Then I realized humans have multiple ways in which we try to not be (who we are)–suicide is just one very permanent way.

Just because suicide is so drastic does not mean the other ways we try to disappear are not worth examining. Some of us disappear by constantly remaking our exteriors–new hair, new clothes, new bodies. Others find jobs that let them swap out their real personality for a different one. Waiters, salesmen, and actors come to mind. Still others become the yes-men for their bosses or voices on the telephone or everybody’s “dear Abby” with no life of her own.

The process of burying ourselves is practically perfected by the time we are in high school. Just take a look at any group of teens–they dress alike, use the same key phrases, listen to the same music, and watch the same TV shows. They can rarely answer a question about what they like or think or want to do without referencing a friend. Even drug and alcohol abuse can be seen as a means of escape or changing our personalities.

Just as the extreme ways we hide–suicide, anorexia, literally running away–are usually triggered by serious trauma in our lives the lesser forms of hiding often signal some kind of loss or neglect as well. I wrote a poem in college (that’s 30 years ago for those of you who were wondering) that used the metaphor of a storm coming off Lake Michigan and slamming onto the dunes as the emotional storm raging inside myself that kept asking why my mother could not love me. Now, don’t go too far with that. My mother was never physically abusive and she met all the requirements of caring for a child–good meals, nice clothes, a safe environment. She cared for me perfectly. Yet emotionally she was simply not accessible. I did not measure up in the right categories to win her approval and without approval there was no means of affection.

As for my father, he was physically absent in that he was a workaholic. We saw him for special events and holidays. He went to church with us on Sundays. But until I was in middle school I do not really remember having a relationship with him. In the morning he was buried in the newspaper and at night, if he wasn’t traveling, he either, stayed late at the office or went back to the office. He usually came home for dinner but that was the time my mother and father talked. In the summer my father and I fished some and sailed some and in the winter we skied some and played bridge some (against my sister and mother). But really, he seemed more like a distant uncle who came to visit then a constant fixture in my life. Our daily lives were completely filtered through my mother which is probably why most of my hurt is associated with her and not my father.

That was a lot of background material in order to say this. Although I contented myself by relating to paper dolls, stuffed animals, and Barbies as a child I also absorbed the message while I spent hours entertaining myself that I was not interesting enough or intellectual enough or talented enough to warrant much attention. Now that I think about it, I am a little surprised I did not rebel in bigger ways in order to at least attract some negative attention. I guess somewhere a long the way I must have learned that negative attention was even worse then none at all. The bottom line for me was the core belief that who I was, was not important became firmly rooted in my mind. It has taken me thirty years to call that belief what it is–a lie.

Obviously, recognizing the truth and changing all the lie supporting behaviors are two very different things. I am just now, after a solid year of wrestling with recognizing the lie I have believed, and the ways I have hidden–buried–myself by protecting the lie and justifying the lie and defending the lie, I am just now beginning to discover what, if any, parts of the person I buried is still alive. I know that something is there because if the person I am underneath the lie was actually dead the lie would never have been exposed.

Emerging is hard work, however. And emerging without collateral damage to my family will be especially difficult. The lie’s many tentacles are ready to latch onto the tender shoots of truth I must somehow keep alive.

But as my friend Shelby would say, “Keep moving!” But maybe she would say it without the exclamation point, I do not know.

A version of this post was previously published as a contribution to Manna Enough.

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Responses

  1. thanks for sharing urself minnow. lots to think about.

    just wrote u an email.


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