Nat wrote a lovely blog post today about exactly how she has come to be herself, about the person who has supported, loved, encouraged and moulded her into the amazing woman she is today, namely her fella, Steve. Now, I’ll be completely honest at this point and state unequivocally that reading the post provoked unprecendented waves of envy and self-pity to wash over me. But it also set the ol’ grey cells a-buzzing and gave me the nudge to write about something I’ve been pondering for a while now.
There are plenty of people who play an enormous role in my life, permanent fixtures I can count on as a constant. There are people who make me feel really amazing about myself, loved, respected, admired. These are the people I think the world of, and who make me feel better about myself just because, through being so wonderful and still wanting to spend time with me, they validate me as worthy of their affection. To these people I am enormously grateful. There are other people who, through no fault of their own, make me feel small, insignificant, a bit of a disappointment. To these people I’m grateful too – in a world where I’m lucky to be surrounded by an excess of wonderful types, they keep me grounded.
And then there are countless others, some of whom have become part of my life and others of whom have passed through fleetingly, who have had the most incredible effect without knowing it. These are people I have leaned on without their knowledge, learned life lessons as a result of – people I have essentially (and often inadvertently) used as a crutch to get me over certain obstacles and through certain complications. I often wonder whether I should tell them what they did for me, how their just being there in the role I cast them in has had an indelible (and positive) effect on my whole being, how important their role was in my recovery: how they quite literally “changed” my life.
These “others” include people who commented on my more emotional blog posts whom I have never met, people whose blogs I read but never commented on, people whose smile or good manners dropped the only beam of light into an otherwise bleak day. I suppose the most obvious examples would be a young man on a bus who gave up his seat for an old lady in the first few weeks I was back in Stafford in December 2007, or, more widely speaking, the smattering of gentlemen who first stirred any kind of warm feelings within me after months of truly believing, without an ounce of dramatic over-statement, that I would neither love, lust nor trust again.
Crutches and landmarks aside, I regularly think about the huge influence others have on who I am (one of the few joys of the commute is the time it leaves you to ponder things like this…). I’m a bit flaky in many ways, easily moulded by those around me, emphasising different elements of my personality to help fit in with my peers. I am lucky enough to have pretty eclectic tastes, and as such can highlight those that fit in with the relevant demographic at any given moment. It is a lack of self-confidence that has taught me to shape-shift in this way, and any psychologist could tell you that this here bloggy-wog is a tool I employ in helping to overcome feelings of inadequacy, fears that in my entirety I still might not be enough. I employ a rule of honesty when posting that comes from the belief that whatever I’m feeling, however embarrassing or cringe-worthy, someone out there has likely felt it too. Therefore, on here at least, there’s no point in hiding.
To leave this post on a high note, there are about a dozen people in my life with whom I can be entirely open, with whom I don’t feel I have to edit myself at all. I hope most of you know who you are. One of these people, however, it is fair to say I hardly know. For the first time in a long time this is someone I don’t feel any need to hide myself from, to protect myself from, to consider, for a moment, whether the wholly honest answers to their questions might not be what they want to hear. With this person I have an overwhelming sense that there’s no point in dressing myself up as someone else – I feel laid bare under their gaze, yet confident that, warts and all, they like what they see. Sitting in the pub recently, faced with an entirely innocuous question, the fleeting moment of “what is the right answer” which I would always take a moment to weigh, was brushed fearlessly aside in favour of a frank and enthusiastic truth. Whether the answer was right or wrong didn’t matter because in that moment I felt right in myself. And whether this is a fleeting acquaintance or something more permanent is irrelevant too: either way it was a landmark moment. As landmark moments tend to do, it has changed my life.