It’s so easy to see something insightful or inspiring, and respond “TRUTH!”, as though we’re confirming an absolute, rather than sharing an opinion steeped in a lifetime of personal circumstance, culture, and outside influence. I’m wary of those words which seem too good to be true; too glib; too ‘one-size-fits-all’.
That’s not to say the words and sentiments, aren’t good, right in some instances, and always well-meaning. But are they truths?
For some, perhaps, some of the time, or at a specific moment in time – voicing with piercing clarity the *exact* thing needed to be said. Or heard. But we stray from TRUTH into subjective experience, with a fine veil of grey, deepening imperceptibly, between fact and feeling, between experience and exactitude.
I’ve been challenged in the last week, by various people, to look back at the truth of my self, of my past. To examine then-me and now-me, and see whether there’s a continuum, of self-ness, which wasn’t (as I have always thought) nasty, then nice. To open my mind to the idea that perhaps then-me was as good (or not) as now-me is, but was beset by circumstances beyond her control, which compounded the negatives and labelled them time and time again as TRUTH, reinforcing them through wicked and ignorant behaviour, despite any efforts to the contrary.
Perhaps I wasn’t so bad after all.
Perhaps I wasn’t rejectable, repugnant, unworthy of respect…
Perhaps it was simply that constant rejection, repulsion, and disrespect, played out over and over and over again, convinced then-me I was worthy of the worst treatment I received. That I was as bad as the worst they thought of me.
I could never believe I was as good as the best that was thought of me, even though I knew that ‘best’ was told fervently, with love, from a few sources who labelled it TRUTH. And so, in their eyes, according to their subjective opinion and the sum of their experiences (though I never factored myself into the influences which might have shaped those experiences), it was.
It was never a ‘truth’ I could accept. My perspective was veiled with deep grey, my vision damaged by impact of the constant shredding of my young self. I was too far gone. Too ashamed of what I was, and how I seemed to be to other people.
It’s all very well, as an adult, to stick two fingers up at those who publicly decry you. To be your own, brave, beautiful self, march to the beat of your own drum, and cry behind closed doors at the wounds rejection never fails to inflict. But as a child? Impossible. We look to those around us for truth. We interpret the world through their older/wiser/better eyes, for we know little except that we know nothing.
Our world begins, and all we know is what we feel. As we develop, we learn to incorporate the views and opinions of others. We interpret their behaviours and our brains find patterns which (rightly or wrongly) make some kind of sense of our experience. My pattern was shame, because of who I was. Shame and sadness. Self-revulsion. Embarrassment at my existence, my self, my everything. For it was all bad. Clearly.
I’ve been running away from that child ever since.
Now I’m hearing the worst and the best thing (maybe) – that I can never escape her. That she is entrenched, embedded, emblazoned through me like words through seaside rock. That child. But I’m hearing too, the other version I was offered (by some) even then, and was unable to concede – that the then-me was good, was acceptable, was lovable, because the same can be said of the now-me, and she and I are one.
Perhaps the traits people value in me now – the characteristics I’m learning to appreciate and even like about myself – were there all along. I changed, after all, determined one day that I would alter my behaviour until I was one of those ‘nice people everybody liked’, until I could be said to have a personality people warmed to and wanted to be around, until I could sparkle, just a little bit at the edges.
I worked hard. I changed, or so I thought, from old-me to new-me, trying to generate distance between the two halves of self. To jettison that child and drift away, never looking back at my spotted heritage. Faking it. Untruthfully purporting to have been a nice person all along. Finding success and friendship and the boost and delight of my efforts working, internalising, until I became a reasonably kind, compassionate, caring person, who people liked to be around.
A liar. An impostor. A cheat.
A pretender to the title of anything sparkly, brightshiny or good.
Yet with these new thoughts, this new challenge, which might suggest a truth that leaves me not jettisoned, but in the position of having healed a breach of bad years, I feel more in the grey than ever. This time, though, it’s a grey which promises to lighten as time goes by. A grey which swirls with confusion, new thoughts, and sparks of possibility. A grey which holds hope.
Who am I now? I’ve no idea, yet in the midst of my grey, and my wondering, I can affirm two things, absolutely, without need for resorting to subjectivity or opinion.
Nothing is black and white.
We’re all a mixture.