You stop, you look round and wonder how you got to where you are. Do you ever feel as if you blinked years ago and now it’s your life?
Whenever I feel hemmed in by life or by people or by circumstances or even by the glorious British climate I try to remember that the ‘hemming in’ isn’t real. It’s a construct I’ve made, a story I’ve created about myself.
I suppose we all make meaning of what happens to us, of our lives. We construct our perceptions into a shape that suits us at the time. I’ve begun to realise as I’ve got older that my construct of meaning has at times been a suit of armour holding me back.
My strict Lutheran parents (who else do you trust as a child?) guided me with principles that felt irrefutable. Each one of these principles had the ring of absolute truth.
The horror that would befall me if I stepped from their path of righteousness was too terrible to contemplate. Outwardly, as a boy, I conformed with only minor forays into the land of disobedience like buying jeans with my first pay packet.
I tried to shed that initial ‘imposed’ construct by running away from there to here and never really wanting to go back again. But here’s a thing, those principles lived on in me even though I didn’t want them.
My back was against a wall of irrefutable truths and absolutes. Good and bad, right and wrong, immorality and morality, work and laziness – the Protestant ethic. That wall I had felt at my back as a child came with me into adulthood. I have often felt driven into a corner, albeit a metaphorical one.
Aha though, a light has crept in through a chink in that wall. That corner, that wall, that construct was, is, of my own making, a story I created. If I I’ve created my construct, I could have a go at deconstructing it?
No, that’s more navel-gazing and reflecting on my narrow childhood and upbringing which aimed to keep me a ‘good boy’, colouring my life as I was growing up. Instead of thinking woe is me, I’ve been done wrong to by them these parents, I’ve started constructing a different meaning to my life.
Maybe it will soon feel as if I’m in a corner again and this back of mine is again against a wall. But do you know what? My back has strengthened through a lifetime of being forced into corners and it’s ready for what life throws at it.
I still stop from time to time and wonder how the hell I got to where I am, but it’s no longer a set position.
Maybe I haven’t been a perfect Dad or even much of a friend but I’m looking, I’m moving.
My past is there and always will be, but it has come out of that corner and is now in the light.
N.B. Much of this has been described by me in my novel LOVE LIES: A Journal, where I’ve used Andre as a mirror image of myself.
(Originally published 17.12.2009.)