Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Intellectual Inhibitions

After a good title like that, I'll be hard pressed to match it with a post that is worthy; however I will try nonetheless.

Many bloggers are probably out there today, pondering how to close out their blogs for the year while thinking about what changes they'd like to make in the coming year. I’m sure the blog writers, along with the blog readers (that’s starting to sound all Dr Seuss, right?) are also considering the same sorts of things in regards to their personal lives.

Looking inward during this time of year is very common and we all know that. Much like a hobbit, nothing new really ever happens to me and generally speaking I’ve liked it that way. Now you, being probably one of the “big folk”, likely think that sounds awfully boring. And sometimes it is.

Well if nothing had changed for me this year, chances are I wouldn’t be blogging about it. So slide down from thine high horse and pull up a bean bag chair (c’mon admit you like those) and I’ll tell you a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this Midwest port, aboard this life, my ship :)

Did you ever go through one of those times in your life when you stood back to observe yourself; one of those rare moments of introspection in which you saw you and the way you’re living and truly, honestly questioned things that you’d previously considered unshakeable? Tis powerful medicine to do this from time to time, believe me.

There are several things that can trigger this sort of self reflection for people. Some folks like me just naturally do that from time to time because that’s how you’re wired. For others, it takes a major life event to shake you up, whether moving to a new location, discovering a new friend, finding a new job, getting married, etc. Sometimes several of those things happen at once.

But on the rare occasion that even one of them happens to someone like me, being a person who is naturally inward-looking and unafraid of it, well I’m very much affected. It sends me to very deep places within myself, diving to the pilings of the bridge, if you will, to inspect what I’ve built there and to see if the plans I’m living now match the foundation laid in the past.

I encourage to you take a similar dive. If you’ve never done it, it can be scary. Oftentimes you’ll find a surprise there to outmatch all others. I’ve recently taken such a plunge and I certainly found a surprise this time.

What did I discover waiting for me there with that foundation I’d built long ago?

It was the autograph of a different “me” etched in the cornerstone. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably like most people and you honestly believe you’re always improving yourself, adding on layers to cover up the imperfections, and thus hiding the things that others find unacceptable, ever molding yourself to societal satisfactoriness. Tis very easy to slip into. Everyone has done it and from me, you’ll find no judgment towards you in that regard, or any other, at all.

And I have no problem with true self improvement. But that’s not always as it appears to be. It can lead to ignoring who you really are.

So on my dive what I rediscovered was the “me” that was unblemished by society, the attitude of my heart that I’d chained to those pilings and left there in that cold dark place. I left it there because I was afraid to take it with me.

Oh now and again, I’d show flashes of the oddities that make me, “me”. Those are generally speaking the things that people like best about me. I’m a pretty funny guy but over the years I’ve learned to hide it and many other things, sending down pieces to the depths for my abandoned soul to catch and hold until someday I might remember who I am and gather them back to myself.

Sometimes if you listen closely you can hear the murmurs from the deep, a pleading gurgle begging you to live again; to not forget what makes you, you. Most of us ignore it. We are literally trained to do so sometimes. Silly childish thoughts we say, my mortgage payment is due. I’ve grown up we reason within, new me has no time for old you. You can bury that “you” very deep down but honestly you can never kill it.

So for people like me who very close to being a true empath; they can never ever be truly comfortable until they face themselves. There is always a niggling at the back of your brain and on the inside you feel like a handle is half-turned, ready to be latched in place, but your hands keep slipping from it when you try to turn it.

To go back to my diving example, you hear the cry from the deep and you want to answer but you’ve forgotten how to sail. In other words, you can’t make that dive on your own anymore, although you see the necessity of it being made. Perhaps like me, the water too was a source of fear and even if you could still sail, you no longer had the strength to face the waves.

But there is always a way back.

So how did I get there? I had to have help. I was fortunate enough that I found other people to be around, who were willing to “share their boat” even if at times they didn’t realize the magnitude of what they did.

So who let me in their boat, willing to sail until I realized … “this is the spot and from here I have to go alone”? Who got me around the water again to begin with?

Over the course of the last several years I’ve met different people who have reintroduced me to the “water”. Reminded me that I knew how to swim after all. Awakened in me a new desire to dunk my head under and look all goofy-haired from time to time. And finally some that even breathed in me new breath as I learned to dive again.

There is always a last step though. A final domino to fall.

So until you meet somebody that reminds you who were really and that you need to find yourself again, you’ll never make that dive.

And that's happened to me this year. I met that person and they know who they are. And chances are if you're reading this and feel as though you identify, something similar will have to happen to you too.

And even after you meet someone to help you, even if you’re no longer afraid; you have to come to a place that you miss “you” so badly, you’re willing to do something you weren’t before. You have to find that deep place within; swimming guided only by instinct long forgotten, and finally dive until, there in the midst of the unyielding pressure you …

Face who you are. But even harder is facing whatever else that brings. And living honestly again.

Now please hear me when I say that on a trip like this one, a trip of this intensity, you’re not going to come back up “alone”. Well you can actually but if you do come up alone, it will be for the last time. This isn’t a pleasure dive.

There is muck down there, squishing through your toes, lapping at the foundation of your life and a version of yourself who’ve you’ve long forgotten that you’ll wrestle with until; through fatigue and lack of air you have to make a decision to leave that person behind once and for all or swim back up together.

So again, it’s about facing who you are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about who the world thinks you are. I’m talking about the “kid”, if you will, that you used to be. The “you” that you were before society and life in general got a hold of you. Who you were before you gave it up, leaving things behind that you shouldn't have for version of yourself that you only thought you wanted. You have to find who are you again. Remember.

For me it was the person that wasn’t afraid to be “strange” or “goofy”, who really is much much smarter than I let on, who watches everyone else with a playful intelligence that sometimes puts people (in a good way) on edge thinking “when is he gonna get me next” .. that last part is hard to explain and you really have to be around me awhile to “get” that about me.

But now we’ve come full circle back to my post title. The cause of all this, in me and others, really is the intellectual inhibitions we place on ourselves by our acceptance that society always is the best judge of our character. Layer by layer, we cover up the child in order to construct an adult who is ultimately but a shell for others to approve. And we end up living, although sometimes inadvertently, for their approval.

Don’t live for others. Give to them, yes, be a giver of your time and efforts. But don’t live for other’s approval. Find the water. Find someone to help you get in it. Learn to open your eyes under it again. And then finally when that voice is near enough that you swear you can hear it, take one big breathe for the trip and, dive, dive dive.

You’ll be glad you did. I came back up holding hands with someone I’d missed very much. Me.


Heather said...

WOW... the only word I can think of at the moment. Very well written and insightful. Thank you for reminding us of the fact that we all need to make sure that we are living honestly with everyone, but most importantly, with our own selves. I raise my glass to the goofy-haired kid. :)

Jennifer said...

I really liked this post, it was awesome! What a great way to start the new year.

Also, I really like the new music player.....

Rob said...

Thanks for the good comments says the goofy-haired kid :)

Cat said...

I realize this is an older post, but wanted to say thanks for giving us all something to ponder on. I have home schooled my kid for the past 4 years, and I think, to a large degree, that most of the "hiding" of our true selves is a product of public school. (speaking for myself)

Rob said...

Thanks for stopping by Cat! Certainly don't worry about commenting on an older post. I appreciate ANY comments :) Thanks!