“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”
This twist on the old bromide resides in the back of my mind and guides me continually. Knowing ourselves takes a willingness to feel pain and to feel ordinary. Self-knowledge includes not only the flattering parts but also the “shadow” side, the dark thoughts, memories, feelings, fantasies, and behaviors that lurk behind the public persona. Self-knowledge is humbling and energizing, frightening and liberating. Part of the character development involves shining a bright light on all our inner parts and then “owning”/taking responsibility for what we see. The next step is accepting ourselves as flawed creatures. With some fear, I will share some of what about myself. This is a partial list because I don’t have the courage to tell all, and I’m not foolish enough to push through that fear, I know that:
- Music, hard work, ears, physical affection, and movement (dance/exercise), are essential to my mental health.
- I’m not as good or bad a man as I sometimes imagine, but I’m a better man than I sometimes seem.
- Funerals and poetry help keep me humble and focused on the essential elements of life.
- I have to work hard to keep from falling back into shame and depression.
- Finding and marrying my wife was and is a miracle in my life.
- Staying consciously liberal helps me to balance and manage that part of me that is blaming, rageful, hateful, and bigoted.
- I sometimes sound like an agnostic, but I speak regularly to God.
- Fear no longer rules my life, but it is a larger factor than I like to admit.
- My grown children have taught me a lot and continue to teach me how to be a better man.
- No matter how screwed up or hopeless I feel, when I sit with another and truly listen, I begin to right my own ship and gain new perspective.