A young boy writes a letter to his mother. He's visiting with his father for the summer, but he's allowed to write back now and again and he's only recently begun to spell to his own satisfaction. He's six and he writes in purple crayon on a light green piece of paper. He lays on the floor and chooses his words carefully. He chooses his words carefully because he knows his dad will read it. He's afraid that if he says the wrong thing it will be repeated in court. It will be repeated in court and it will hurt mommy, just like last time. At the age of six, he doesn't trust adults. Not strangers and not those closest to him. He's already lost the belief that parents are there to protect and nurture. Lost the belief that adults are infallible beings. He's writing in code. He doesn't mention physical objects from his mother's world. He doesn't mention her boyfriend. He doesn't talk about his sisters. The letter is finished and he hands it over, signed and sealed in an envelope. It doesn't matter. Envelopes can be opened and resealed. It was just in case. You have to be careful.
I've spent a lot my adult life trying to extract meaning from patterns and experiences. It's complicated work and often emotionally draining, but it's work I'm wholly committed to. If you ever hope to grow as a human being you have to be willing to do two things. One is be honest with yourself. That's the harder of the two, and if you can manage that then the next step is simply to dig. Dig and dig and dig. Find a pattern, and dig for the root. How and why did this behaviour start? Why was it necessary then and do I need it now? Not all patterns are bad. Some will simply be a part of what makes you, you. Which means sometimes it's just about understanding yourself better. And if you come across a behaviour that does cause you anxiety, that you want to change, you still can't fix it without addressing the root of the problem. The why.
In comparison to some of my past introspections the question that arose in me today was pretty easy to figure out. Why am I so wary of people's authenticity? Whether it's a compliment or someone just referencing their own accomplishment I am continuously and hyper-actively listening for the lie. Whether sarcasm or bold faced fabrication; subversive or overt, I suspect many things as untrue until it can be proven otherwise. It's why I'm slow to trust people (especially men) and why I'm usually the first person to spot someone being duplicitous. Except it's overdone. I worry everyone's a fake, everyone is putting on a show. And perhaps a lot of us are. It was Shakespeare who wrote, "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players". While I hope to play, I hope never to be "playing at" who I am and I'm weary of the possibility others might be.
As I said, it has an easily identifiable root and, comparatively, little complexity. I was that little boy. Learning the things I needed to learn to survive what my life was…things no child should have to learn. Not at that age. Not to lose faith in those who were charged with their care. Not to grow into a man who has a hard time trusting anyone's authenticity. That's a behaviour I'd rather be without. And identifying the root is that first step.
There's always a balance though. I became so good at detecting falseness that I was even wary of it in myself. I've tried very hard to keep duplicity out of my life. To be the same person to every person I meet as best I can. Lately it has seemed an impossible venture. It's not always the game the world wants you to play, but I'm starting to see that there are ways to make it work. No one person is any one thing and we can't be all of those things, all the time. I'm finding that my peace with this will mean involving different aspects of me in different situations, and that's okay.
This is what growth is about to me. These are my thoughts through a microscope. This is my year to savour what I have, and understand what it really means to me. Day 38, in the bag.