Are you looking for your true self?
(No. 118) I'm still looking. At moments, a bit of light will appear.
As a writer, having readers is a real privilege. It means the world to me that you spend time with my newsletter.
Recently I offered all paid subscribers a bonus of $150 worth of writing or editing advice, free, because I appreciate your support. I promptly lost 20 subscribers — not sure why, but something about giving perks to the paid subscribers must have upset these free subscribers. Just want to remind everyone that, generally, I share every newsletter post with all subscribers, free or paid. I just give the paid subscribers little gifts every now and then, because they’ve taken that extra step. But I appreciate everyone. Thank you all.
Since my mid-twenties I’ve been working to free myself from the constraints and repressions that arise from my childhood experiences of chaos, dysfunction and fear. Before my mid-twenties, I “freed” myself by drinking and using drugs and seeing the world through a dark haze — my memories of my late teens and early twenties come back to me through a twilight scrim. Much of the time, I was observing myself, rather than being myself. I romanticized punks and poets and philosopher pop artists. Then, when I was 26, I stopped drinking and began a long slow recovery, or should I say, discovery of who I am. I turn 65 next month. Like all people my age, I think about how many years I might have left. I want those years to be beautiful. And that would mean that I spend them discovering and appreciating who I really am, with less thought of who I should be, or who I’m not.
You might wonder how someone my age could not yet feel they knew who they were. After all, I’m midway through my seventh decade. I’ve been in therapy for 20 years. I’ve written a memoir. I have a spiritual life. I meditate. I exercise. Still, though I can’t explain it, this feeling of not truly knowing myself has grown stronger in the last decade. And it’s a feeling I really appreciate. It presents doorways I can step through. I am very open to discovering who I am. If I’m lucky, I’ll have 30 more years to do that (is that laughter I hear?).
At the moment, I’m focusing on boundaries. I’ve always been one to extend myself to assist others, often to the point where I ignore myself. I think that, given my early years, I’ve often aligned myself with people — friends, lovers, spouses — who replicate some of the worst aspects of my childhood, such as lack of affection, criticism and absence. I think this is pretty common, and I’m not feeling bitter about it. Rather, I’m glad for the awareness.
In the last few years I’ve paused relationships with people who cross boundaries, who yell or criticize or cast blame in irrational ways. I don’t need it, and I don’t find it worthwhile to repeatedly engage and try to change their behaviors, or try to “save” them from their anger or tempers. This has been very uplifting for me. In my life, I am focusing on people who I appreciate, and who appreciate me in turn. I don’t often fully write people off — I know that we all might change, in time. But I don’t give them my energy.
I try to speak my thoughts clearly and directly and not judge the responses. I am definitely not always successful at this, but its a goal.
Likewise, with my newsletter. I’m writing for people who are interested and engaged. I hope you are one of them. And I hope that I’m able to offer you something worthwhile for your life.
I pray that the coming year is full of color and light, good thinking and maybe some exciting times, along with love and self-awareness.
Thank you for reading, and please leave your thoughts in the comments.
At age 84 - I feel as if I am just learning who I am. I lived at home til I was 19 and was married for 63 years. So who I was - was shaped and molded by others. Now, it's just me and the two cats. I am in the process of figuring out who the real Janice is.
I love what you write Stephan. I'm really enjoying your book in the making. I too find that I'm just getting to know myself again. I've been recognizing some major landmarks in my life that I hadn't noticed before. They have finally come to the surface.