Thoughts: The Road Back

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Yesterday I was talking to my son. He has begun his first college classes down in Florida, and after a week of orientation and a few days of classes, he is in a good place. It does a father’s heart good.  Much of our talk was not about school, however. We talked about coming back to ourselves.

He spoke of a session they had in orientation where they were told to seek out two people they did not know and just talk. The first person he went to was a disabled young man. He was surprised at himself.

“When I came up to Vermont,” he said “I would have been too anxiety ridden to do that.” He told me. He would have wondered what to say, or say the wrong thing. But, he told me, “We had a really good conversation.”

I was not surprised.

When both of my kids were in elementary school, the teachers used to always pair them up with the new kids that arrived in the middle of the year.  They always noted their compassion, their ease with the new kids, and their care of the underdog.  Far more than grades, this was the thing I was most proud of while they were there. So to me, going to talk first to the young disabled man was perfectly in character – a coming back to himself and something essential.

He has had a lot of that happen to him these past two years, reclaiming parts of him that had become lost over the years. His excitement and joy in rediscovering his true nature has been a joy. Even more so because I have traveled a similar journey.

I was divorced a little more than a decade ago, and the pain of it dang near killed me, emotionally and spiritually. The guy who crawled out of that experience, with the help of a couple of fine therapists and a pair of gentle pastors, took a long time to reclaim the best of himself and get back on a path of life that was true to his nature.

Yes, I struggled. And a lot of it sucked.

My experience is that it’s easy to break a person. To tear them down. To ply them with negativity and self-doubt until they leave behind the best of who they are, Most of us are in some ways, still vulnerable, like a kid. And the people around us, even ones that love us, can and too often do, chip away, or even whack away at things they don’t appreciate or understand until what’s left is a fragile skeleton of patches, all trying to please or fit in.

This can happen all at once in a traumatic event. Or it can happen over time, in a subtle murder of who we are. It can come from a single person, or from all around us.

If we are lucky enough, or courageous enough to break free of that environment, of the toxic people in our life, what is left is a reclaiming. It is slow work. At times, we have forgotten who we were. At times, we are afraid of who we were, because of the negativity we have been plied with.

We come back to it slowly, if at all.  Like a child afraid of being hit, we are tentative. We try on bits of ourselves again, like finding old clothes and trying them on to see if they still fit.

It took me years. It took my son less time.  We both got help, good help. But I had further to go, and I didn’t have a safe haven. He did.

The joy in that, in rediscovering ourselves and finding out the good in us that was once condemned or shunted aside, is an amazing thing. SO amazing it’s almost worth the journey to find that joy of rediscovery. (Almost).

He and I are both in good places these days. And I think sharing this journey, albeit over different times, has brought us closer together. Life still has its crap times. All is not roses and champagne. But when we are living within who really are, the tough stuff is easier to deal with. And the good stuff is… well…. amazing.

The thing is, when we are hiding who we are, or afraid of who we are, or trying to please the world by becoming something different than who we are, we are working not just against the world and all it has to throw at us, but we are also working against ourselves. We become our biggest roadblock.

The road back means releasing something. Letting something go. Leaving something. Or (as in my case), being tossed aside. It feels terrible, that separation. It hurts. It is scary. But it is also an opportunity.

In some cases, mine, for instance, we are no longer sure who we are outside of the relationships that broke us. So we can’t just jump in and say we’re gonna get back to “X”. We have to rummage through our closets and finding “X”, try it on and see if it still fits, where it needs to be altered, or where perhaps, what you once were, you are not anymore.

It’s slow. It’s scary. It’s necessary.

OK, Maybe not necessary, A lot of people don’t. They stay broken. They believe the lies and misapprehensions of others. They never learn to trust their inner truth.  Their joy is at best, partial. At worst, non-existent.

But it is necessary if we want, not just to live, but to live joyously.

Talking to my son yesterday was a time of joy. In his journey. In mine.  “I can do this.”, he said as we got to the end of the call. His voice was full of excitement. It was full of joy.

And so was I.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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