Sometimes life is simply peeling back layers of accumulated experiences, habits, and expectations. You look a little deeper to find what has always been part of you, but has remain covered.
Like an archaeologist sweeping away the dust and debris, you find parts of yourself that are completely unexpected.
Since I decided to broaden the topics I'd address with this blog, I have felt a little like the movie character, Shrek, who told Donkey that Ogres are like onions: they have layers, meaning they are more complex than they might appear.
Writing about subjects that aren't necessary tied directly to retirement has been liberating. Sure, I have had to deal with some unpleasant comments at times. But, I have also garnered some important insight from those whose opinions don't always match mine. Especially enlightening were some thoughts about what is true and why that is so.
In your life you have layers, parts of yourself that remain unexposed to the glare of public awareness, maybe even to yourself. One of our primary instincts is to protect our ego, that is, our sense of self-esteem or self-importance.The phrase "fragile ego" is appropriate for many of us. If we allow our exterior image to be shown as not representing who we really are, we risk embarrassment or worse. It is hard work to constantly match our preferred persona.
For this post, though, I'd like to have us consider some layers underneath the "public" one that represents us most of the time. I want us to peel back some deeper layers and see what we might find.
Without risking contradiction I can say that all of us have layers beneath our surface that consist of fears, some irrational, some justified. These could be experiences that caused us anxiety or distress from childhood, a bad experience with a job or coworker, maybe a romantic relationship that failed.
Maybe we can have a deep-seated fear of those not like us, or a particularly unpleasant political situation. Disease, a sudden, serious illness, cancer or some life-threatening issue become part of that fear layer. Whatever the reason, these fears leave us skittish, not as self-assured as our ego would prefer. We don't want to project any weakness so we keep that layer buried well beneath the surface. This layer still exists even if we don't acknowledge it. This is not a healthy approach. Only when we face it and attempt to deal with it can we lessen its hold on us.
Another layer can be a reserve of strength we don't realize exists. Maybe an empowering childhood with supportive and encouraging parents gave us an inner resilience we have never called upon, but is there waiting when needed. Or, it is possible that your extra layer of strength came from just the opposite scenario: a childhood filled with less-then-ideal conditions. You survived, maybe even prospered. There is a force within you to face and defeat whatever the world places in your path.
A layer I never thought I possessed was one that contained creativity. I know there is the understanding that every problem we solve in life shows a type of creativity. I get that. But, I mean an artistic streak that extends beyond our problem-solving abilities. Making music, painting, taking and editing photographs were hidden in a layer that just needed my permission to be exposed. A display at the Metropolitan or concert at Lincoln Center aren't happening. But, my creative layer only requires that I feed it with regular stimulation. There is no validation from others required.
May I challenge you to dig deep down to your creative self? Every one of us has it. That layer may look different in you than in me, maybe different from anyone else you know. But, humans come with a need to create. That is the basis of the word creativity and you have it.
So, Shrek was right: Ogres (and humans) have layers. We have the outer one that is our face to the world, the one that everyone sees. Then, we have a hidden complexity that makes life worth living and exploring, maybe even showing to others.
I urge you to peel away!