When I moved to Fairfield, Iowa, from Buffalo, New York, in the fall of 2015—on the eve of my 50th birthday into the first house I had ever purchased—I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be here, in Fairfield. This process of knowing, of figuring out what I wanted, had begun almost exactly one year earlier.
I had been in a very difficult place in my life. I’m no stranger to being in difficult places, and with more than half of my productive life lived, I was a bit discouraged. Although I had a secure job in my field that paid well, it didn’t feel secure to me and it took up too much of my time in a way that felt confining. My job felt desolate, and at times even dangerous. Very few people understood what I meant when I expressed these feelings.
I had good relationships with my family and friends, and a partner with whom I shared mutual love and respect. These relationships were not perfect, but they were very good. All of them represented big improvements from the relationships I’d had over the past ten years. But I wasn’t satisfied. Why?
I think there could be as many opinions as there are people reading this. But the opinion that mattered, at least when it came to transforming my life, was the one that belonged to me.
Ultimately, I recognized that there was more to my Self that I needed to explore. Parts of me were not participating fully in the life I was living. I had an inkling about the identities of some of the missing parts, but there were others that I simply hadn’t discovered yet. Each of these parts had feelings, expectations, and yearnings of their own. They were trapped inside me, voiceless and powerless, because I wasn’t communicating with them. And their unhappiness seeped into my life.
Why wasn’t I communicating with them? I couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t . . . it didn’t matter, really. What mattered was that I wasn’t in touch with these parts— some not in a very long time, and some not ever.
I had perfectly good reasons for this, or so it seemed at the time. We’d never been introduced, these parts and I, or so I thought. Who becomes intimate with someone they’ve never met? No reasonable person. But who does the introducing? It’s funny to consider that.
How many of us can remember the way we found out about important parts of ourselves, parts we were keeping hidden? Those stories become the ones that shape our lives. Like the passion for an instrument that you began to study only because your parents insisted you study music. Or the food you avoided for years because you thought you wouldn’t like it, that became a favorite after an attractive date persuaded you to “just try a bite.”
We meet many parts of our Selves through other people. It begins with our parents, who teach us about love, nurturing, trust, and disappointment, and becomes our intimate relationship part. It continues with our community—friends, neighbors, school —where we are exposed to the different perspectives of others. We naturally bring these new parts home with us, and sometimes our family gives us their opinion: “We like this one, but not that one.” The rejected parts of ourselves—the things we like about ourselves that our family and community don’t seem to accept or allow—where do they go? What do they do? Do they just disappear?
They can’t disappear. Nothing about us disappears. The rejected parts either express themselves or hide somewhere inside of us and ultimately express themselves in a backhanded way.
If these parts can’t disappear, and if we’re not sure we can fit them into our lives, what then? Are we destined to become walking receptacles of accumulated rejected parts, until our bodies begin to break down and we give up with the exhaustion of it all?
Sometimes we do break down. We see it around us in our families and communities. But how can we avoid this track? Is it enough just to find the parts, even if we realize we probably can’t fit them into our lives right now? Is there hope?
Yes, there’s hope, but it takes a leap of faith. You must find your parts, listen to all of them, and make connection with them. In doing this, these hidden parts can grow and transform. And in transforming, they bring you back your power.
This article was first published in the June 2017 issue of the Iowa Source in Fairfield, Iowa.