I am beautifully and gloriously strange. While I have come to embrace this quirkiness that exists within me, I must admit that it is, at times, painfully lonely.
I’ve never really fit in, though I have given it my all to blend. I learned how to adapt to my surroundings, much like a chameleon changes its colors to merge into its environment. I became so good at going incognito that I lost touch with what made me, “me.”
It’s a long and winding road, finding your way back to yourself. I take detours now and then, unsteady on my feet when I stumble into new and unfamiliar territory. The most unsettling location, as odd as it may seem, is when I venture deep into my internal landscape. The wilderness that exists there is deep and dark and powerful.
By shining a light in all of my darkest places, I have come upon and ushered out all sorts of odd and sometimes terrifying characters. Some scurry away to find another dark, shadowy corner of my psyche to hide, while others cower and blink hard under the bright light of my acknowledgment of their existence.
I’m learning that there are so many parts of ourselves we lose, push out, or ignore along our journey to seem “normal” (whatever that means). Some of these aspects of myself seemed to turn to smoke and float away the moment I laid my attention upon them. It was as if the mere act of witnessing them was enough to set them free.
I wonder what else lives within me, feeling lost and alone or utterly forgotten. I wonder how deep most people dig in order to know themselves. Do they dig at all?
It’s easy to see why so many people choose to keep the door to their subconscious closed tightly, triple dead-bolted, and boarded up. To open it and take a good hard look at what resides there can be daunting at best, and devastatingly frightening at its worst. Yet, without going there…without cleaning house and becoming familiar with who we are at every level, we miss an opportunity to create real connection with ourselves, other people, and the world we live in.
This realization has been difficult for me. I closed off parts of myself for so long they’ve withered and all but died. Starved of attention, light, and recognition, they crawled away and waited to perish in the dark. Disconnecting these parts of myself, no matter how unlovable or unacceptable they may have seemed at the time, disconnected me from my true nature.
Because of this, I’ve struggled to feel connected — I mean really connected — to people for as long as I can remember. Many of my relationships, no matter how important they have been to me, have felt superficial. Not because I didn’t care or didn’t want to feel connected but, rather, I was unable to form a true and deep connection because I was not fully connected to myself and therefore not fully present.
This has been a painful realization.
I have struggled to stand still and accept this fact. I’ve wanted to run away from it, ignore it, lay blame on anyone and anything else. It’s not easy to point the finger at yourself and note that you are the one who needs to do the work. Even if other people involved hold some accountability, I can no longer shy away from the fact that I, too, am culpable for the hollowness of my relationships with others and, maybe even more importantly, with myself.
The relationship with the self is an oddity. We are born a blank slate. As we grow older we are formed and molded by the people and cultures by which we are surrounded. We attempt to be ourselves, all the while the selves we claim as our own are not solely of our own making. And so, we drift along trying to decipher who we are while juggling the unconscious need to fit in, be liked and accepted, and to not “rock the boat.”
Some of us, not all, arrive at some point in our lives when we realize that we no longer fit in our skins. The identities we have adopted are not our true selves and it grows more unbearable by the day to stay squeezed into this faux character we have created. This realization can be intensely unsettling.
We begin to understand that the decisions we have made, big and small, were not exclusively of our own doing. We realize how often we looked outside of ourselves for guidance while ignoring what we felt and knew on the inside to be true. With this realization, we begin to question…everything.
I’m on this journey now. It is admittedly a bumpy ride. I am often jolted from a state of waking-sleep by a thunderous realization that this is not who I want to be. What I mean is, I am no longer content to sleepwalk my way through life, to wish away my days to get to some future point in time, or to sit idly by waiting for my “someday” to arrive when everything will be perfectly aligned and I can make some real and lasting changes.
Truth is, I haven’t liked myself for a while now. While I’m growing clearer and stronger with each passing day, it is soul-crushingly clear to me that I have a lot of work to do to get to where I want to be. I’m learning to love myself through some of the most painful soul-searching I have ever done.
With every aspect of myself that rises up, all of which I have previously pushed down or banished to the corners of my being, I am being taught how to face, embrace, forgive, and heal my inner-most wounds.
There is a vast ocean of self-exploration stretched out before me and it will take every last ounce of strength — mind, body, and soul — to keep from drowning. I’ve cowered on the shoreline long enough. It’s time for me to face the waves, to dive deep, and to keep swimming until I reach the other shore.
I will need to cut loose parts of myself that no longer serve me, and let go of the weight of my past, to keep my head above water. This journey will require a hard and honest look at who I have been, who I am now, and who I wish to become.
I am flawed. I am beautifully and tragically broken. I am also wildly relentless and brilliantly resilient…as are so many of you reading this.
When we arrive at a crossroad we must remember to pause, take stock, and choose wisely. We mustn’t give in to the temptation to base our decision exclusively on what others believe is best for us, or what is deemed “acceptable.”
We must be brave in the face of uncertainty. For true change to occur — for us to discover genuine autonomy — we must get quiet and listen to our innermost wisdom.
Not only must we listen, we must trust that we know what is best for us. No matter the intentions of others, good or bad, we must no longer lay the map to our life’s destination at someone else’s feet and allow them to choose for us. When we hand over this map, not only do we relinquish our sovereignty, we damn the chosen “others” to take on all of the blame and resentment that occurs when things don’t turn out the way we felt they should.
We need to own this responsibility. We need to take ownership of the fear of pain. We need to recognize that if we are not captaining our own ships, then we have no ground to stand on when it sinks.
Yes, I am beautifully and gloriously strange. I am also deeply wounded and learning to let the light of love and acceptance filter through the cracks of my wounded heart.
I am coming to grips with the reality that I have caused much of my own isolation and pain out of fear of being judged without ever giving others the chance to decide for themselves if I fit with them or not. I pushed others away so I wouldn’t have to feel rejected. I walled up my heart and shut out the love of others, not because they didn’t love or accept me but, rather, because I have not truly loved and accepted myself.
There is a long and winding road ahead of me, but I feel steady on my feet. I know that I will stumble from time to time. I know I have a lot of work to do to dismantle the walls I have built around my heart. I sense that deep within my being, there is a garden I wish to share with the world. To get there I must clear the thorns and replant the seeds so that love can bloom once again.
One day I will meet you at its gate and welcome you in…one day. For now, I ask for forgiveness. I seek self-compassion, and I turn inward to face all that I have shunned so that I may begin to heal.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life: BS-Free Wisdom to Ignite Your Inner Badass and Live the Life You Deserve.
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