More and more these days, I’m not sure who I am. I don’t mean I’ve forgotten the name written on my birth certificate (not even the middle name I’d rather forget.) I even (usually) manage to remember that I have another name for the Health Services – the same surname as my husband and kids, which I never use for anything else. (It just seemed easier somehow when our first daughter was born and the hospital said that otherwise she’d have my surname, not my husband’s. This wasn’t our plan, so I changed to his.)
The bit I’m less sure about is who or what this “me” is. The how of who I am. This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s quite exhilarating. In the last fifteen or so years I’ve let go of so many beliefs about how I thought life should be, what it should be. Each time I let go, it feels as if my world expands a little, as if I expand a little. I feel more open, less afraid. Things that seemed impossible become possible. Instead of saying, “I can’t,” I say, “Maybe I can.” Or even, sometimes, just: “I can.”
I used to feel scared to speak in public and though I did it a few times, each time I felt terrified. Then, when my father died, I knew I wanted to speak at his funeral, to express how wonderful he was, how much we loved him. I did wonder if I’d make it through, and each time I practiced I broke down before the end. But I figured people would understand so I didn’t change my mind. When I was almost time for me to go up, I realised I was saying to myself, “You can do it.” Over and over, those words were running through my head.
I wasn’t repeating an affirmation to psyche myself up – the words bubbled up from my unconscious mind. This surprised me, but it also made me feel sure I could do it. And when I read the eulogy to over 150 people was the first time I did it without crying.
For a long time, I had known there was something deeper inside me that could be kind, that I could trust. Yet often it seemed hard to reach.
I guess that day I knew I didn’t need to try. It was there all along, all I had to do was listen.
It was when writing that I first recognised this part of me. I write, and words appear that I had no idea were there. Afterwards, I read them and think, “Oh, yes. That makes sense.” Sometimes I feel almost like a cheat when I let these words out into the world. They aren’t “mine,” not in the sense that my conscious mind thought them up. Most writers experience this, so I guess we’re all cheating!
So this “who,” the deeper who, is the one I’m interested in getting to know better, the one I’d like to make more time for, so that “I” can be more obvious to me.
The funny thing is that the more I allow myself to see that part of me, the more I realise it’s always been there. The result is I’m also no longer sure about who I was.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about it would have been like if I had had self-compassion as a teenager. While writing that, I realised the story of “teenage me” that I’d told for decades wasn’t entirely true. I’d believed that I was a shy person, and that I couldn’t speak to people. But while I this was sometimes the case, it wasn’t always. I used to think back to how I’d been around eleven or twelve and wonder where that confident girl went. I could find reason after reason for why she disappeared, but the truth was, she didn’t. She was always there, I just stopped noticing her, stop seeing her as me. I paid attention to her absence and labelled that “me.”
So how I grew up to be the one I am now is by turning my attention away from the lies and half-truths I’ve believed about myself. I am who I am today because of letting go, because of looking within and noticing what is beyond all the stories I’ve spun to try to make sense of my life.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and sentence-thinker-upper Upasna Sethi of Life Through My Bioscope This week’s sentence is “How I grew up to be the one I am now…”