When I was growing up in New York, I was definitely considered shy and quiet, lacking confidence, unsure of myself. I agreed with this assessment.
It’s fair to say, I think, that in my adult life, which has taken place almost entirely away from New York, just about no one has thought of me in these terms. In fact, quite the opposite: I’m not infrequently considered at a minimum self-possessed and sometimes as opinionated, cock-sure, and arrogant. I don’t entirely disagree with these assessments, either. I’ve changed, and context matters.
My sense of identity has long been in transition, then, but I’m at a particularly complex crossroads now. I’m at an age, 45, where I could still be a new father. I’m at an age where I could be a grandfather – and I am, a brand new grandfather to two celebrated new children, Oliana and Kaiden, from my wonderful and much-loved step-daughters, Danaelle and Layla. I’m parenting my 12-year-old son, Nicholas, which is also to say that later this year I’ll be parenting a teenager.
I met my wife, Loree, in spring 1998 and married her later that year, 15 years ago. After a year’s separation required by the state of North Carolina, our divorce, my second, will finalize soon.
I lost my job early this year. After six years at Lark Books and three years running the business Lark Jewelry & Beading and working with a wonderful, respected group of people I adored and enjoyed, the sense of loss was profound.
I’m not convinced I’ve gone back to the shy and quiet boy I was, but the lacking confidence and unsure of myself bits do seem spot-on these days.
I question less my identity than what identity I project and whether they’re commensurate and why that is.
I question my judgment.
I question some choices, albeit rather lightly. At the moment, for example, I’m questioning how many paragraphs in a row have started with “I.”
I certainly question my confidence in my judgment about future choices right now.
I wonder what I want to do when I grow up. I’ve decided that both I and my son, Nicholas, are ultimately better served if whatever comes next is born out of want rather than need.
So, I’ve stopped. I’ve just stopped. I have slow mornings after getting Nicholas off to school. I do a little writing, a little social media, a little job hunting, a little apartment reorg. I get some things in order for having a home business. I take the occasional Georgetown continuing-ed webinar from alumni services. (As Nicholas says, “Hoya Saxa, baby.” I wonder who got him to start saying that?) I have lunch with friends a few times a week (and thank God for you, by the way). In the afternoons, I take a little hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway, or I go to a park or the arboretum we live near and lie down on an old afghan – the same afghan on which I was lying down at parks 20 years ago.
It’s hard to believe it’s really 20 years later. I don’t feel any older, except physically, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally. The eyesight is starting to go again, for one. I dislike the metaphorical resonance that has, even more than I dislike wearing glasses. When my eyesight improved back to 20-20 a few years ago, I thought, “See, I told you I see clearly!” But the universe tends to get the last laugh. It always can outwait you, it seems.
But, despite that last paragraph, we’re now waiting together. I’m increasingly making peace and finding center. I’m becoming stiller, slower, quieter.
I’m singing songs with Nicholas, and both our voices are deepening. (Better metaphor!) I’m going for walks, hiking. I’m taking photos of nature’s smaller details and bigger pictures, while trying to take notice of my own.
I have a major project to do, which I’m committed to doing, but I don’t want to take my focus off this personal work, even for something important. Sometimes I have to work to stop myself from working. After so many years, working hard is a habit. But I will get to it when I’m ready. That’s when I’ll be able to do it justice.
In the meantime, I’m trying to do myself justice, and Nicholas, and hopefully everyone I care for who is still choosing relationship with me – thank you, again – despite my mistakes or arrogance or quietude or need or confusion. I’ve been on a merry-go-round of human frailties in the past year.
I really haven’t changed, I guess. I’m very much who I was when I was a kid, in weaknesses and strengths, whatever those mean, because they’re usually all the same – true enough, even if the notion is trite. I have a few friends from childhood. They really haven’t changed, either, and I’m glad for it. It’s easiest to know who people are when they’re kids and the veils haven’t gone up, especially when you’re a kid, too, and you don’t really know what a veil is.
Most people don’t change very much, I think.
So maybe the work I’m doing is just coming to accept afresh who and what I am, to feel solid about it once more, and to move forward grounded with the surety of it. Or not to move forward and, rather, just to be still. Maybe for a good, long time, but even if not, so that I can then best infuse whatever life and work choices are to come with what I’ve always known my values to be: kindness, compassion, community, fun, honesty, integrity, gentleness, and gratitude.
That sounds about right to me tonight.
The journey to find one’s “center” never ends. I am glad you are seeking peace and happiness in this life. Thank you for sharing for it brings out the best in all those who are willing to listen.
You’re beautiful, Ray.
I dropped in on your blog today Ray, and I am so glad I did. I’m especially touched by your interaction with your son.Your relationship with him is deeper than ever. I hope you are enjoying this amazing spring time. I have poppies blooming in my garden now, they are a much awaited visual extravaganza each year. Be well. Susan