I think the issue with the “authentic self” and finding it is that life teaches us how to lose it at a very young age, to shy away from ourselves and run toward standards and expectations. __Farah Lawal
Yesterday, I said clearly and without hesitation, “I am a very good writer.” And immediately thought, “depending on the moment, whom I might be with, and whether or not my hair is combed, teeth brushed, how I am dressed (was in my jammies at the time, talking on the phone), what I did or didn’t have for dinner,” and one hundred other things I won’t mention. It all flashed before my eyes in a second and no, I didn’t die. But, some small tiny aspect of my person wouldn’t have been at all surprised if I had been promptly struck down by lightening.
None of those thoughts, images, or crossed-fingers flinch, came across in my words. It was just a calm cool statement of fact and accepted as such. So, when did all of that happen? Not talking about the statement in time, but the ability to simply say it. And the answer is that I really don’t know. I think its been building and accumulating for some time now, more than likely for years.
The reason none of those inner qualms were apparent was because I actually believe the statement myself. I am a very good writer. So why all the little whispers and flinches in the background, the white noise of my existence? Habit, just plain habit, and hedging my bets, I assume. But, also the reality of this blog and many things I have already done and accomplished in the past.
Farah’s quote, which was left as a comment here a couple of days ago, is a big part of the mixed bag of inner responses I had last night. A while back, I wrote about the blanket of the socialization process we all, in some form or another, live beneath and also grow up being programmed to. In my neck of the woods, it was perfectly acceptable to learn how to write, it is a necessary skill in later years, if for no other reason than to sign checks and make out grocery lists.
My parents read the newspaper everyday, and although my father could sometimes be found reading a volume of the encyclopedia, recreational reading was not so much frowned upon, as silently ruled to be something one did only on one’s own time and never at the expense of duty, chores, or visitors. In other words, it was considered to be a very private pass-time and one that wasn’t encouraged as a topic of daily conversation. Likewise, writing was something other people, say from another galaxy, might engage in, but it certainly wasn’t for ‘us’.
It doesn’t make any difference how many years I may personally have spent learning these skills and the craft itself, I still carry that message deep inside the very fiber of my being. And I always will. It was woven into the cocoon of my early years, and was enduring enough to become an essential part of the comfort zone I created when I became an adult. I sometimes think it is absolutely amazing that I do this thing at all, given my background. Furthermore, I don’t for one minute, think my experience is rare. As a matter of fact, I think it is as common as dirt.
The cocoon stage of a butterfly’s development process is also called the chrysalis stage. I like that word better. It sounds like a hard substance, and a lot like the word crystal. The cocoon of the socialization process is as important to we humans, as the chrysalis is to the butterfly. It creates both a shelter and a nurture that is absolutely necessary to gaining maturity. But, it too often, as in my case, becomes part and parcel of the comfort zones we create in that mature state.
I have often wondered how many butterflies never make it out of that cocoon. Judging and comparing from the human aspect, probably a great many of them never do. It takes really hard, deliberate and dedicated work to do so. And I would think, all things being somewhat unequal, that some percentage of the butterfly population never emerges into full sunlight. I would also wager to guess that a percentage of human beings never make it out of their comfort zone either. I know several.
Our comfort zone is a lot like an invisible, transparent glass wall that completely surrounds our life and activities. When we accidentally bump up against that wall, we are repelled backward, sometimes rubbing our noses from the hard contact. Anything new, or different, is that wall. People, bits of conversation, behavior that is unfamiliar make us feel uncomfortable and we have a tendency to move away from that discomfort. And we learn something from the experience of bumping noses with that wall. We immediately know that we won’t go back to that place and get whacked again. At least many, if not most of us, have some form of that response.
But, what if I told you that glass wall is created from natural and organic materials, meant to expand to compensate for a life-long growth process? Because I am a terribly curious creature (with a streak of the rebel, as well), I have a tendency to rub my nose with one hand, then put my other hand up to feel the texture of what I’ve just walked into. And that part of me is also natural and organic material. It, like the comfort zone I created, is a learned experience, thus able to be unlearned, or changed if I so choose.
That choice is yours as well. You may, or may not, have any deep desire to one day say, “I am a very good writer,” but, I’m willing to bet that there is at least one thing you would like to feel the texture of, get to know a wee bit better, and maybe even learn how to flutter and fly around, exploring, tasting, and sniffing at what is there. Push against those glass walls, let yourself find how expandable they really are.
An excellent way to do just that is to write about it. That way, you can satisfy your curiosity, find out how you feel about it, list all the excuses you can come up with as to why it’s a bad idea, and a few of the reasons why it might not be. Furthermore, you can do all of that while sitting smack dab in the middle of your own comfort zone, maybe even in your most comfortable set of jammies.