Wednesday, 6 June 2012
"Popeye The Sailor Man"
"I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam!" ~ Popeye The Sailor Man
You have to hand it to that Popeye. He was pretty clear about who he was (a Sailor Man) and what he liked (Olive Oyl, Sweet Pea, and spinach!). I admire that. How many of us really know who we are? Do you? How many of us know and are OK with it? Are you? That's the million dollar question.
Our society constantly bombards us with reminders that we actually aren't OK as we are. We need to look younger, be fitter, eat better, be funnier, be less funny, have better clothes, spend more money on clothes, spend less money on clothes, get married, don't get married, drive a better car, no - bike to work! And on and on and on. It can feel a bit like being stuck between a rock and hard place at times. Any way you turn you seem to be getting it all wrong. What is the right thing to do? What is the right thing for ME? If you don't know who you are to begin with it's kind of a hard question to answer.
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."
I came across this quote from the author Kurt Vonnegut and it stopped me in my tracks. Pretty powerful. We seem to spend a lot of time in our society pretending. It made me ask myself, am I pretending? Sometimes it feels like it. Sometimes I feel like I am playing at my job, like when I was a little girl and used to like to play "office" (boring, I know!). I feel that way because occasionally I simply lack confidence. But there's another reason, too.
I have often said that living with and surviving depression, although awful, has also been a gift. It's a gift because it has forced my hand, so to speak. It has made me examine things such as my life purpose - what is truly important to me? I have had to begin the task of peeling back the layers of the onion, discovering who I really am. Some days I love what I discover, such as the increased creativity and my newly found love of writing. Or a higher level of compassion. Other days I am not so enamoured with what I see - I could do with less of my instant irritability and how that shapes my interactions with people (pretty sure others could happily do without that as well - just a hunch).
As I peel away layer after layer, I feel like I am getting closer and closer to the real me. Because I refuse to believe that my experience with mental illness has been all for nought, I have embraced the opposite - that we all have a purpose and that hard times are there for opportunity, opportunity to grow. And this is why sometimes I feel like I am pretending at life. Because as I get closer to the real me, I get closer to authenticity. The times that aren't quite authentic feel more so.
So how do we recognize those moments when we feel less than authentic? It starts with listening to your heart and your intuition - what feels good and what simply doesn't? About ten years ago when my friends and my younger brother started getting married and having kids I felt like I should, too. That there was something wrong with me that I wasn't. Quite honestly, I felt pretty miserable. But then I realized something. That was never my dream. Never. Once I recognized that I could let it go. I did and I was free to move on without regret.
Practise telling yourself that you are OK as you are and not beating yourself up for your less than perfect moments. Remind yourself what makes you unique and embrace that. I'll go first. I have a sarcastic sense of humour. Absolutely, without a doubt, it is sometimes less than fully appreciated (!). But you know what? I kind of like my sense of humour anyway. I am tall - 5'11". Some women would hate that. It has never bothered me, even when I was always the tallest kid in school. I kind of like my height because it makes me unique.
Oh, and I suffer from mental illness. Now "that", I am still attempting to "embrace". It certainly makes me different from many, but not all. It's debilitating at times and has also been almost life-ending. But it has given me those gifts that I spoke about earlier. So I guess the journey that it has taken me on has been worth it after all.
So who am I? I am ME: a human being, far from perfect, who is moving steadily closer to realizing my potential. And, like Popeye, I enjoy spinach.
P.S. This post, like many things in my life, was inspired by my Mother and my Grandma Pringle, the original Sweet Pea!
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