I once knew a couple whose love was based on pure fiction. The girl had taken a compliment, a few good times, and a little affection, and out of these meager ingredients created a boy who would love and cherish her always. It was easy for me to see this, but very difficult for her because this was her creation. Her imagination had filled in all the places in his character about which she had yet to learn. Her desire to be loved prevented her from exercising patience which would have allowed his character to reveal itself. The conflict between the boy in her heart and the boy who stood before her, often insulting her and rejecting her, caused tremendous pain and confusion. It was so great that it drove her inward, but there she discovered a little girl who needed to be protected from the person whom she “loved.” So, she put aside the boy she created and this freed her from the boy who stood before her. And she began to grow.
It occurs to me now, however, that we all start as somebody else’s creation. Our parents impose upon us their vision of who we are and we absorb that before we are even aware of our own existence. (This is their job, of course, “we” have to start somewhere.) Our siblings, our teachers, our peers, even our own bodies add to this picture. Our blank places are filled in by others and by circumstances, and we simply accept that creation as our identity.
For a lucky few, what has been created matches what they would have chosen for themselves, but I think this is very rare.
On the other end of the spectrum there are a very unlucky number who know that the created self that they have inherited does not match the self that they would create if they knew how. Artists and comedians tend to fit here; unable to create selves they create other things, including laughter.
The vast majority accept the inherited self and react to the same old thing in the same old way, no matter how unsatisfying or unproductive their lives may be. These people don’t grow, they settle.
Then there are both the luckiest and the unluckiest of all: those who ask “Why?” about themselves.
“Why do I think this way?”
“Why do I feel this way?”
“Why do I act this way?”
These people gather in answers to such questions and begin to build new selves.
Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz these people follow a yellow brick road, risking witches and poppy fields, and flying monkeys in order to discover and to create the real self. These folks are unlucky because it can be very painful to realize that the witch who strikes fear into your heart is some version of you. Or your mom, who dropped some careless remark one day that went straight to your heart—and your subconscious—and it has echoed inside you ever since. These folks will walk miles and miles along the yellow brick road to silence that echo because they have discovered that such walking is less exhausting than listening to the echo forever. And carrying the shame forever. Such a process is also painful for those who love the self-seekers. Dorothy was a different girl by the time she reached Oz:
“You’re not who I thought you were!”
“I’m not who I thought I was.”
However, in one way, those who follow such a path are the luckiest of all, for they meet others along the way. People who journey inward always find each other, and often experience a love like no other, one born of giving and receiving guidance for no other reason than to give and to receive.
“Why can’t I feel?” asked the Tin Man.
“Why can’t I act?” asked the Cowardly Lion.
And Dorothy loved them all. And they loved her in return.
Dare to go within. Dare to grow. Dare to climb up out of your rut and wander around lost. Wander and wonder. In the case of the former, someone will find you soon enough and guide your steps even as you guide his. In the case of the latter, remember that to be full of wonder is wonder-ful.
Dare to be your own creator.