Life or Something Like It

Ripping Up The Welcome Mat

MP900385643A look back at my list of failed resolutions for 2012 reveals an interesting story about what wasn’t quite as important to me as I thought it was. Much of my list remains incomplete, but way more was never started.

Despite my long list of failures I have much cause for celebration because somewhere along the way in 2012, and without it becoming immediately apparent, I crossed my own personal Rubicon.  It must have been a round trip ticket because I am happy to say I seem to have arrived back at an approximation of the me I once was. 

I say approximation because this version of me will, I hope, be the best one yet.  This begs the question of when, if ever, do we become the best version of ourselves?  Is there a point at which we are the most complete and polished or are we destined to forever be a work in progress; a rough draft?

Much navel gazing went into analysing why I had lost sight of who I was, to the point that I became so despondent and irritated by my failures it brought on a bout of mental paralysis that sabotaged a lot of what I planned to do with 2012 and badly affected my writing and yet it wasn’t until the later stages of the year that I finally began to understand what my problem was.

I found myself the target of much criticism from two of the people I hold most dear in the world (both as it happens, men) regarding certain aspects of my behaviour ( I get upset when people let me down); my language (I use too many Americanisms in my speech – a legacy from over a decade of living in the US) and my personal tastes (eclectic musical preferences from sometime obscure artists). In the face of this criticism I did what has become second nature to me in recent years and started to try to justify myself and leap to adapt and accommodate/over-compensate lest I give continued offence and lose their friendship. 

I don’t exactly know when I morphed into the welcome mat version of me, I can put my finger on a couple of incidents which certainly set me on the path towards it, but the cause to some extent has passed into irrelevancy.

In discussions with one of my critics, I was reminded of a question I was asked on a management training course I’d been on back in the eighties. It was a simple question,

‘What would you like your epitaph to be?’

My answer at the time was both immediate and inappropriate (to the context since I was supposed to, I believe, respond with some lofty statement worthy of a captain of industry). It was simply two words:

Free Spirit.’

I had become anything but.   It has taken the criticism of others to bring it back into perspective for me. In a classic example of missing the blindingly obvious it took some painful and rather unwelcome words  to hammer home to me exactly why there have been so many rough drafts of me: I have become a people pleaser, way too eager to change and bend to suit what everybody else wants me to be. I have held myself in such low esteem that I allowed myself to become a shadow of who I once was. I had let the spirit of everything I was, everything I am and everything I could be, slip from my grasp because I was desperate for approval and acceptance.

That spirit thankfully was neither as weak willed or desperate as me, merely biding her time waiting for me to figure it out.

So this is what I have to say to my critics: this is who I am, the best version of me right now – deal with it and love me for who that is. 

My resolution list this year will be very short; it will contain only two words.