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The dam burst at 3 am. “Rory, I think my waters broke.” We gathered up all our things in the dead of night, called a neighbour to come to our house, and made a decision we still regret to this day: We left our three-year-old asleep in bed while we drove off to the hospital. Lily was born on December 21, 2007, and the world of our first-born daughter was irreversibly knocked off its axis.
Poppy woke up to an empty house save only for a virtual stranger. I still can’t imagine what sort of a whirlwind was taking place in her impressionable mind. For three years she had been the center of her own universe. Mummy, Daddy, and me, and the world had been perfect. It had already been infiltrated by a relatively unseen force as Mum’s tummy began to expand, but no amount of advance warning could prepare the poor child for the devastating reality of another small person muscling in and occupying the same space, demanding the attention of her property -- and to have that reality driven home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer blow by having it preceded by a house devoid of any family members at all . . . well . . . is it any wonder that something decoupled in her psyche.
Five years later, and things have settled into an amicable acceptance. I still wish we had taken Poppy to the hospital with us that morning, but we didn’t, and that’s that. We have talked about it with her. We have re-enacted that morning with dolls and playthings, and re-written (quite literally) the storyline to take her with us, but all of this is merely balm for her soul. Eventually she will have to revisit that pivotal event in her own time, and on her own terms, as part of her own journey to discover her authentic self.
Although I was unaware of it at the time, while Lily was being born I was undergoing my own spiritual rebirth. I know about end-of-the-world predictions, having belonged to an apocalyptic religion for the last quarter of a century. I had joined up the moment I left school. I needed the end of the world to come because I was so petrified of the world around me. Dreams of a paradise about to arrive at any given moment were music to my frightened ears, and I would do anything to secure my place in the new world. What I failed to understand for so many years was, as wonderful a fantasy as a renewed earth was, it wasn’t the answer to my problems. That would have to come from somewhere else -- somewhere I couldn’t have imagined.
Through a series of interconnected coincidences I was led to reflect on my own upbringing. With the help of a photograph of my eight-year-old self I began to look back over events and experiences in my own life. I revisited certain pivotal happenings and questioned how they had moulded my world-view, how they had made me feel about myself and the effect they had on my attitude to those around me. I saw that everything in the present was viewed through the prism of the past.
As I reflected on past events, and reinterpreted those events with a clearer vision, my whole world began to change. Something inside of me began to die. The old personality -- the unreal me, the person I thought I needed to be in order to survive this world -- began to wither away and fade. He was being replaced by the real me -- the authentic me. The better I began to understand myself, the easier it became to forgive myself.
Forgiveness is a happy byproduct of understanding. Forgiveness means to let things go, and throw off the burden of resentment and bitterness.
Along with this freedom came freedom from the need to believe in apocalyptic visions. I could no longer subscribe to a way of life that demanded adherence to a body of religious codes. I began to write about my spiritual awakening and was rewarded by being expelled from the church I belonged to. I am dead to them . . . and yet, I am reborn.
Not many of us are real. The real you lies buried under a mountain of guilt, grief, and shame. From birth onwards, life’s experiences have served to suppress the authentic you and allow place for the inauthentic -- a person who has built up a system of beliefs and habits as a way of coping with life’s traumas. It is the person you think you need to be in order to get by in life. It happens to all of us.
We don’t need to go through dramatic or horrific events -- even the smallest adjustment can have a profound effect. We are tossed about and stripped in ways we don’t understand at the time. We imagine we shrug them off and put them behind us, when all we are doing is finding ways to cope.
Until we go back and confront these personal realities we will only ever be living as the person who is coping. The problem you face is that the unreal you is blind. He cannot see. He has buried the real you by digging a hole. Climbing out of the hole is half the battle. Climbing out is recognising the problem. Moving the mountain is doing something about the problem. Looking inwards is not easy, it presents monumental challenges. It means shining a light into the darkest corners of the soul, uncovering things we would prefer to keep hidden. That kind of exertion could kill a man.
But, of course, that is what you want to do. The unreal you needs to die in order for the real you to live. The authentic self does not live in fear or anxiety. The authentic self is able to view the world for what it is without any disturbance to one’s internal harmony; it can clearly see man’s inhumanity to man without one’s vision becoming clouded by the demand for justice, or the need to return evil for evil. However, words like these will not help. It is impossible to convey the difference to life when it is lived as the authentic self. A convincing argument cannot be made -- it has to be experienced. And until it is experienced nothing else will make sense.
One day Poppy is going to have to discover all of this for herself. Her world might have changed on December 21, 2007, but it doesn’t mean that her real self needs to remain buried forever.
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