Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shaped, Not Defined

"Life is the journey between who you were, and who you are meant to be." A friend posted this as her Facebook status, from status shuffle, and it got me thinking about how our childhood shapes us, but doesn't have to define us. We are all products of the homes we grew up in, for better or for worse, and we learned things that settled deep into our personalities. Most of these things were never stated to us in words, but we understood them nonetheless, and lived by them until we discovered better ways of functioning.

I grew up with an alcoholic father, and the rest of the family accommodated this behaviour by creating a fiction that things were fine at home when they really were not. It has taken me a long time to work through this disconnect between what I saw and felt free to communicate. Robert McKee says in his book Story, "What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens." There is what happens to us, and then our interpretation of what happens, and the two did not line up for me in childhood.

Realizing this has shaken me to my core, but given me a whole new edge in which to grow and change. I don't want to be disconnected from my feelings and my experiences. They influence each other, and I want to be genuine and as honest as possible about how they are related. I can see my kids learning this in a way that was not accessible by me as a child, and I'm grateful. When they are angry, they can define it as such, and not pretend that things are fine when they don't feel happy. This to me is progress, and even though it is slow and painful for me, they can end up further along on this road to honesty and congruency.

I don't want to be afraid of living authentically from this point forward, but I must accept that not everyone feels the same way. I can't force people to my way of thinking any more than I can be forced to do something against my will. I am only responsible for myself, and I believe honesty to be better than covering up or pretending. I can pretend all I want in my storytelling, but still like to base my imagination on something anchored in reality, so that it becomes recognizable and beneficial to others.

Life is a journey, taken in incremental steps, with many detours and setbacks on our way from who we once were to who we are becoming. I believe in finding mentors who can inspire us with their lives, and listening to that still, small voice which can direct us better than we can. There are examples to follow, if we will be brave enough to confront the areas where we need to change. It's not an easy process, but the benefits are unmeasurable, and I want to go ever deeper in my soul, instead of living on the surface. There is more to learn and to discover, but we must keep searching and not accept less than the best of who we can become.

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