For the last part of the Loss assignment, I would like to talk about the deepest and most tragic of losses –at least in my eyes-: losing oneself.
Know Thyself (lest your life passes you by)
Finding yourself is the one, most important imperative in life. I truly believe that. We are our own window onto this marvelous and painful world. What we experience is nothing but the distortion of what is by the thick and sometimes clouded glass of that window. Until I know myself -and granted, that’s a never-ending process- I am not really living that life; well I am, but it is a distorted life that is not true to who I am.
I would say that, in general -I say in general because sometimes it is a physiological condition in which case it is very much a part of who we are and then it’s more a matter of acceptance-, we are not our fears, we are not our anxieties, or our crippling shyness, we are not our anger or so many other things brought on by our life experiences and our childhoods. I followed an Indian master through a few years of meditative practice and he put it that way: we are a spark of divine, and life has wrapped itself like a vine around us, our life’s work is to peel the onion we have become, one layer at a time, to get back to that spark. I’ve put it in my own words and agree with the gist of it, you can take or leave the divine part (I leave it), it makes no difference. But I do believe that we are not the bundles of stress most of us have become, we are not our fears or our coping mechanisms. But knowing yourself, retaking what has been obscured, is hard work that one can hardly do on his/her own.
I’ve gone through a couple stints of therapy in my life. Once when I was in high school to battle a crippling shyness that made me miserable (think running away each time a girl comes around to talk to you, in the heart racing, heavy sweating, I’m running an Olympic 100 meters kind of way; and indeed it was way worse with the ones I liked). After a year of therapy I could stand my ground despite being hella nervous. It got much better with time, thank god. I went back to therapy, later in life, to deal with more complex anxiety-issues linked to my childhood. And again it is never-ending work that we have to do on ourselves. But how often do we lose ourselves to anger, anguish, or fear, especially in our most intimate relationships? Insecurities and fear used to be my constant companion. I worked through them and I do not flood with dread (not as much, anyway) when certain things happen in my life.
There is another, equally tragic, aspect to losing oneself that is more obvious:
Losing ourselves to things or situations that we know are not us.
That’s usually linked to things mentioned above but most painfully to life circumstances and societal imperatives. Think Brokeback Mountain kind of stuff; living, like so many do around the world, in societies that denigrate what you feel you are at your core, be it who you want to love, or what you want to do with your life. You are an artist but doomed to the kitchen because that’s what women do. You want to be a mechanic or a firefighter but your parents will never accept less than a doctor or a lawyer. You want out of a relationship but a violent mate and the fear of retribution prevent you from leaving. There are countless examples like those. Sometimes there is no exit but through dangerous and maybe life-threatening actions. Other time it takes leaving a piece of our lives behind, breaking bonds that were actually chains. And sometimes there is no possibility but acceptance of the loss, mourn that part of ourselves that will never be allowed to bloom. All of that is never easy and is always painful.