It pains me to say that there is still a hurt little boy in me who wants, more than anything, to be loved, because was convinced he was unlovable. I just spend a week moving my mom into a retirement community, and it is amazing how deep the hurt still goes.
Mom was frustrated that he didn’t turn out more like his dad, the quarterback and homecoming king.
The boy didn’t want to be the sweaty fat kid. He didn’t want to be the weird kid. He was just born that way.
But there were a few things, like school, that he was good at, and he learned over time that he could get attention, which at least felt like love, when he performed.
Of course there was never enough attention to convince him that he was actually lovable, and he was stressed out all the time, but that seemed like a small price to pay.
He got really good at showing up however people wanted him to. The rewards of that felt good, at least for a little while.
You want high school valedictorian? You want highest honors in college? You want top ten law school? You got it.
You want polish and professionalism? On it.
But if you wanted to know what he really thought, what he really felt, what he was afraid of, then for years and years, he was not your guy.
Because he didn’t even know himself. It was too terrifying to think about. Too terrifying to risk disappointing someone by saying the wrong thing.
Whenever he thought about what he wanted, he drew a complete blank. But he was really good at figuring out what you wanted. And delivering it.
I can identify the specific moment I saw the path I was on was futile. I was driving home from a new job, listening to a book on tape (on cassette–remember those?). I think it was a biography of Harry Truman. I was always trying to learn more. To make every moment productive.
And it suddenly hit me that there would always be someone smarter than me, more successful than me, harder working than me. There were always more books on tape! There was always more to do!
I could never be enough, not at least by the standards I had set for myself.
So what to do?
That moment was in 1995. I started down another path. I started meditating because it helped with the panic attacks.
And I thought “enlightenment,” whatever that was, would be the ultimate achievement.
The actual results were quite different.
I began to see how much of my world was only my thinking (hint–all of it).
It was only very recently I started to see how much I protect myself from feeling things. How that little boy is still in me.
But the difference is he has come into the light, little by little.
He sees that he is inherently lovable. He might not be totally convinced yet, but he’s getting there.
He sees that he actually does want things, and that it’s OK to want them.
And finally, he is ready to come out into the world.
To see and be seen. To tell his story. To hear yours.