Who am I? A question I have asked myself many times over my life. If I think carefully and honestly, the answer has never changed. What has changed is my reluctance to accept the answer.
As we grow we learn many things about ourselves. We also learn what others expect of us and the visions of ourselves they project.
For myself, I tried hard to live up to my father’s ideals. His heroes. He could be a very hard man. A black and white thinker. A heavy drinker, fighter, bigot and always seemed to be angry. Love, truth and compassion were only present after a night of drinking. Friends came before family. A good punch up was preferable to thoughtful discussion. Being soft was a detriment and a weakness.
Underneath there was another man. A man suppressed and contained. A quick mind with a strong sense of justice and fair play. A man of conviction. One that was rarely present. One I did not get to know until he passed.
So I spent much of my early life trying to be like him. I learned my lessons well. Ones I have been struggling to undo for most of my life. I gave up myself to become the person I thought I should be. Something I continued to practice even into my marriage.
There was growth for me. Realizations of what was and what could be. I learned enough not to pass on the same lessons my father taught me to my children. They still haunted me, however. They still influenced the person I was.
Although his was the strongest influence there were others. My mother, who defended and protected me causing so many arguments with my father. She tried so very hard to be a “good” parent in spite of her failings. The dichotomy of heroes I tried to emulate. Those I admired and those my father respected. A conflicting group. My friends that came and went, ever changing as I mutated through crisis or epiphany. They reflected and complimented my varied states of being as I moved through life. A part of my search for self I have come to learn.
With each change of friends and lovers I gained knowledge and insight. Experiences that formed who I have become, discoveries of the man inside, dispelling of fears and a slowly evolving acceptance. My life as a parent and role model to my children brought into light the astounding differences between what I had learned and what I was teaching. Further reflection on who I truly was. I portrayed a version of myself that was perhaps more accurate than I could accept. In time I would.
That time has come, I believe. The dissolution of my marriage, abandonment of my sobriety and voyage through a dark time have brought what I may consider a release or emergence. Acceptance. Reassurance. Belief. Confidence.
After all these years I am becoming myself. I am living as the person I am without the shadows of expectations and influence. I can express myself freely and love another without giving up any part of who I am. I can love myself and admit my faults with an eye to address them. I can finally say “I’m sorry” or “I’m wrong” with conviction. I can tell the truth without fear of judgement. I can laugh or cry unabashed as the moment strikes me without forethought. I am becoming myself and I like me.
Onward and upward.
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