I very rarely think about the past, or be struck by strong memories from my childhood. I’m not sure why – I guess life tends to be fairly interesting on a daily basis without me having to go over old ground. However I do have a few vivid recollections and I would like to share one.
I’m in my teens, but I can’t remember if it is the first or the second time I had crumbled under the weight of my anxiety. My dad has taken me up north to stay with my grandad – to get a bit of space perhaps, I’m not sure because I can only remember one thing about the trip. I’m in my grandad’s spare bedroom, a place I would normally associate with being kept awake by his thunderous snoring or being awoken from my stunted slumber by his playful cat.
This time however, my dad occupies the single bed I would normally take, and I am in the one next to it. It is dark and quiet, except for my dad talking to me. Most of his words are lost to me but I can recall him telling me that I should never be afraid of talking to him. That I can tell him anything. I have my back to him and I’m hoping he can’t see me shaking as the lump in my throat swells and I’m fighting back each tear with every last bit of desperate strength I have. I know that all he wants is to hear something from me but I stay as quiet as I possibly can until we both fall asleep and I can finally let go.
I don’t remember much about my life in general, but I tend to remember the moments I regret.
I stayed silent because I didn’t know how to tell him that I’d let him down. That I was too weak. I wanted to be better but I wasn’t. I just wanted to tell him that I was sorry I wasn’t a better son but that I wanted to be. I just wanted to sob and cry and apologise that this was all I could even think to be.
I regret not letting my dad know how I felt.
Instead, all these words stayed in my mind. They have stayed and they have festered and grown over the years and it is taking me just as long to undo the insidious damage they have caused me. For too long I let that moment define me and shape how I saw myself, not only as someone not good enough but also that the worst thing I could ever do would be to admit that I wasn’t good enough and that I needed help. When things have got tough I have regularly retreated into myself, not out of a desire to be strong or sort things out on my own, but to spare those around me being infected by the constant stench of my failure.
Why on earth am I sharing this.
In 2014 I started my blog, Not for self, but for all. It was meant as a clever way of sharing my professional work with people across different communities and to promote the idea that better connected individuals and communities (in many different forms) could be more resilient to the sorts of challenges that life throws at us. It was meant to inform and inspire others – however its greatest success has been to reshape the way I view myself and how I approach my life.
I’ve noticed recently that a lot of people keep telling me how well I look. They could just be being polite, but my hunch is that the lessons I’ve learnt from the resilience projects I’ve talked about on this blog, and from trying to put into practice the lessons I’ve drawn from the experience of others is starting to pay off.
In particular I’m conscious that 2017 was both an incredibly rough year for me, but also a year that I came away from feeling like I had won (sort of like when a football team gets battered all game but still wins 1-0). A lot of my bad decisions came to roost last year, but at the same time my new willingness to share my problems and seek help has made me realise that although bad decisions can have bad consequences, they don’t have to be the end of the world and trusting others, while difficult, has been the difference between me sinking and swimming.
Things aren’t perfect. I still have doubts and that lonely sobbing young man still lives inside of me far too often than I’d like. I’m working hard each day to undo the damaging legacy of that poor decision all those years ago. However I feel more confident than ever about the future and my place in it all.
Which is why this my last post on this blog. Quietly in the background it has accompanied me on a very personal journey of redemption, and acceptance that I don’t need to do this all on my own. It has made me more resilient and now it is time for me to reflect in a different way.
I hope everyone that has come across the blog has found it of interest and wish you all the best on your individual journeys.