I’m not an expert or authority on anything or anyone other than myself. And that’s the person I find hardest keeping faith with. If I make a promise to anyone else I will do everything that is humanly possible to keep my word, so why do I so often let myself down?
I used to suffer from ‘broken wing syndrome’. Something snapped a long time ago and was never set straight with the right splints so the bones grew back mis-shapen. Consequently I could only rise just above the ground and flap in endless circles. What I needed was for the wing to be broken again and re-set properly, healed properly, but that was a pretty daunting task. Thoughts of Will it hurt? What if it doesn’t work? What if I end up worse than before? How will I manage till it heals? What will I do if it does work? Is it too late to learn to fly? assailed and paralysed me.
When I was growing up as a ‘Baby Boomer’, parenting was based on the philosophies of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ and ‘children should be seen and not heard’. The previous generation had suffered austerity and wars, whereas my generation had opportunities never envisaged before. This has gone a long way to make my generation the one that is the healthiest, most active and willing to try new things. Not for us the holiday in Blackpool at the same b&b year after year – we’re more likely to be found trekking the Inca Trail, scuba diving in Sharm el Sheik or bungy-jumping Victoria Falls. But for all that, there has been a cost.
I can remember running home to tell my parents that I had come top in a test at school, but my dad’s reaction was to ask why I didn’t get 100%. After a while I stopped running home, then I stopped telling him. Later I stopped going to school. My dad loved me and as an adult I know he was trying to instill in me the need to be always trying to improve, to never be satisfied with anything less than he thought me capable of. He also wanted me to get used to disappointment and never praised me in case I got big-headed. This was a strategy enforced by other authority figures and was designed at first to keep people ‘in their place’, later to control an emergent generation who dared to think differently about sacrifice and subservience. We rebelled, of course, but I still battled feelings of ‘not good enough’ even though intellectually I knew I was.
So what has changed? I have.
Trying to make sense of the failed relationships I’ve been involved in has made me much more philosophical. I now understand myself a bit better and that some relationships last lifetimes, some last minutes and others don’t last at all. They have all taught me something, for which I am grateful. But what has been the hardest lesson to learn, and I’m still working on it, is that it’s okay not to be perfect and that if I don’t keep faith with myself, why should anyone else?