Life gives us plenty of reasons to flee. Mostly, we flee from ourselves. Almost everyone has one version or another of a dysfunctional childhood. If they don’t, they make up for lost time as young adults. It isn’t just that we flee an understanding of our own capacity for evil, or small-mindedness, or our baser instincts. Our lives chip away at us and by the time we’re adults, most of us have devised some pretty effective strategies for protecting ourselves and managing our way through life. We put boundaries in place—a functional and necessary thing, but some of the boundaries are not simply between “I and thou,” they are between “me and me.” That is, we work hard to create a persona and we often forget that the persona is not the real thing. It is not us.
We don’t just work hard at creating the persona, we work hard at maintaining it. There is a certain amount of presenting ourselves in the best possible way that comes with that, a certain amount of being just a bit less than honest with others—and with ourselves. We build lifestyles to support our personas. We build defenses—against being abused again, against being abandoned again, against being taken for granted again, and most important, against being “found out.” If we’re not careful, we don’t just defend against perceived threat, we become all too ready to attack, often in subtle ways we don’t even recognize.
But one of the most sacred—not to mention useful—things about being human is that who we really are is always still in there. As Buckaroo Banzai and many others have said, no matter where you go, there you are. The “you” in “there you are” isn’t just the persona. Who you are may be buried beneath the persona, but it’s there. You carry it with you on the journey.
In many ways, we are all like that shopkeeper. We all flee the dead body on the threshold. That dead body is, after all, us. Except that it is not really dead. God knows, it may feel like who we started out as when we slid down the chute into this life is long gone by the time we’re twenty or thirty, but it’s still alive and well within. It may feel dead and we may even wish it were dead because owning up to the human part of being a human being is not something most of us are thrilled to do. We’re afraid the body will be found. That is, we’re afraid we’ll be discovered for being exactly who we are. So we flee.
To be continued.
Copyright 2013 by Melanie Mulhall