As humans we seem to be on an eternal quest to find our place in life, who we are and where and how we fit. I have thought a lot about this lately, maybe it is a midlife crisis or maybe I am just beginning to care more about myself and less about what other people think of me.
Sometimes we try to fit ourselves into either our own or other people’s idea of who or what we should be. We have a picture in our minds of how the world should be and how and what we should be. Go to school, go to university, go travelling, make friends, get a job, have a career, find the perfect someone, get married, have children…and so on.
So the majority of us attempt to follow this path called life and for many it is joyful and fulfilling. My point here is not to disrespect anyone’s choice because as long as we are happy and it is enough then it is good. But what happens when we try to pursue a path out of a feeling of duty and societal norm? What if we find our feet in shoes that do not fit correctly? Or maybe they did fit once and now all of a sudden they feel constricting and uncomfortable? What then?
Is this what we mean when we say we do not know who we are or what we want from life anymore?
Some train for a new profession, go back to their studies, go travelling, seek themselves on spiritual retreats, get a pet to fill the gap, move away from restricting friendships and some even face the realisation that their current relationship with the person that they thought that they would spend the rest of their lives with no longer feels good and true. Sometimes we wake up and wonder exactly how we found ourselves where we are and feel we have lost ourselves in the minefield of daily duties.
Sometimes we lose things – friends, family, lovers, partners, jobs, our health, our homes, our dignity, our pride and even our sanity. Sometimes these are taken away from us with no say in it. These losses for me are the hardest ones of all….when we have no control at all over what is taken from us. Sometimes we lose ourselves and then if we are fortunate we find ourselves again.
Many decisions we make sadly are born out of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of looking foolish, fear of being alone and fear of walking the path less trodden. Most of these boil down to what others think of us rather than what we think of ourselves. This is what I mean when I say that I am beginning to care less what others think of me and my decisions. It does not mean that I care less for other people, rather instead I feel that I should care more for myself.
I wish to be able to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning knowing that I can sleep with the choices that I have made. That they have been from my heart, that I have been honest with myself and with those who matter to me about who I am and how we walk this path together. When I cannot do this it tears at me and makes me restless. When I cannot convey my feelings and thoughts with open honest communication and I cannot receive the same in return from those I love I feel I begin to fracture and become disjointed.
How often do we wish a conversation had gone a different way? How often do we feel the weight of words unspoken or uttered in pain and anger? How often do we lose people from our lives through jealousy, misunderstanding, unfounded suspicion and stubborn pride? When it is too easy to walk away rather than say I am sorry you are hurting, I am sorry if my words and actions have hurt you. Even if we are not sorry for what we have said or done we can apologise for the hurt another feels. We can apologise for sadness and pain even if it was never intended. This is what it is to be human. To own your own words and behaviour even if you feel you have done no wrong and understand the impact they have had on another.
So perhaps as I move often disgracefully into my middle age this is what I seek. Honesty and open communication at all times. The ability to be myself and welcome others as exactly who they are so that we can rejoice in our imperfections together, cry and laugh and hold each other close at the worst of moments and dance together joyfully at the best of times.
For better or for worse, in sickness and in health.