How does it happen that we spend much of our lives disconnected from ourselves, searching (we don’t know for what) but missing the mark? The most important part of being alive often remains elusive and distant. I believe that we are born knowing who we are. When my grandson was two days old he looked at his mom with eyebrows knitted as if to say, “I know who I am, but who are you?” Babies are nourishing to be around because they are soulful. They don’t try to cover up a burp or blunder; they shake with joy at seeing a leaf blowing in the wind or a familiar face and tense with every fiber of their bodies when hungry or uncomfortable. They don’t temper their reactions so as not to wake the neighbors or see Daddy scrunch his nose at a smelly poop. Their needs and desires are as close to them as the blood pulsing in their veins.
During the acculturation process babies learn the rules of the tribes that they were born into. First, it’s the bylaws of their parents on how to behave, what to think, and how to act, then the influences of siblings and peers, teachers, religious community and national allegiance. More and more we take on the tenets of the group (or rebel against them) and the pure connection to our essence gets further and further away from the driver. Technology inserts itself into our psyche and we believe that with friends and attention on social media we are connected and relevant.
Then it happens. It’s a betrayal or loss, an accident or awareness of aging, humiliation or illness, depression or anxiety and that fragile structure comes crashing down. What we believed were true friendships reveal themselves as shallow social platitudes, unsatisfying and unreliable. These traumas can drive us further away from ourselves into addiction or diversions like shopping, overeating and compulsive planning. Or they can be the catalyst for self-awareness and a courageous reckoning of beliefs that might not speak of who we really are. These are defining moments in our lives, opportunities for change. They happen to all of us, and when we get over the shock of being shattered we can pick up the pieces and arrange them in a new configuration…maybe in a way that we would have done as babies.