My last blog about Leopards and Spots was written to make readers aware, if they weren’t already, that people really can change their behaviour. However, on reading it again, in trying to be upbeat, I may have made it sound as though this was straightforward or easy; as, in some respects, it was. Yet I’m also very aware that each person’s journey is an individual one that needs to take account of a great many circumstances. So, perhaps, some perspective might be useful.
The first thing to be said is that I didn’t really see the problems that were there. At all. Yes, my mum, never in the best of health, had died when I was 5 and, yes, my father had already asked for the divorce that, according to her family, hastened her death. Yes, he did come home for the funeral and returned to his unit soon afterwards to remarry, leaving me in the care of his eldest sister and her husband. Yes, their way of dealing with the situation was to sever all ties with my mum’s family and never to mention her again and, yes, the husband was, shall we just say, very Victorian in his attitude to children. Fortunately, I was rescued by another of my aunts and her husband only to have my father return, after nine years without contact, to sign me into the army for 12 years. I also had some strange ideas (the most bizarre of which was that there had never been any such person as my mum, literally!), could have a very bad temper and be a bit of martinet but that was just me, wasn’t it? OK, I’d married my first real girlfriend when we were 19 and went on to raise a family. So, didn’t I have a job, a house, a mortgage and, commuting to London every day, live a life similar to a great many others? Indeed, wasn’t that normal life on the surface, reflected by a normality underneath?
Well, I now realise that, no, not really. The nasty bits, you see, were reactions to circumstances and not an inherent part of me. It’s as if my emotional life was that of the five year old who never grew up. What many years of therapy did for me can best be described by Michelangelo’s reported response when asked how he carved the statue of David from that marble block. He said he just chipped away the parts that weren’t David!
So, no, it hasn’t necessarily been easy but the real question is “has it been worth it?” and the answer to that can be best judged by the person that I am now, the “David” in fact. Considerably more at ease in his own skin, considerably more adult in his emotional life (now happily married for over 25 years) and, please excuse the conceit, a good writer. The latter something that I dreamt about for more years that I care to remember. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. So, as the title above intimates, I didn’t realise what was possible. Well, I do now and, in the meantime, the journey continues.