Sunday, May 9, 2010
Q&A- What Makes Me Tick
"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile".
On Monday I asked you guys to submit any questions you have for me. The first question I received was, “What makes YOU tick? What has happened in your life that makes you such a compassionate man?” It was unexpected, I didn’t anticipate anything quite so profound.
The question of who we are and why can’t be answered easily or quickly. It can’t be answered simply by looking at what we are on the surface or who we are in the present. To truly understand another person we need go back to the start. Put another way, this is going to be a long-ass reply.
There’s a law in forensics called Locard’s Principle of Transferrence which says that when a person commits a crime they will leave at the scene something that was not there before, and carry away with them something that was not on them previously. I believe this is also true with people; we are the sum total of those we meet in our lives. Their influences shape us as we allow (consciously or subconsciously) and we carry a part of everyone we know, good or bad, with us. So back to the start.
I had a great childhood, in fact I’d say it was amazing. I did everything a boy loves to do, played rough, broke some bones, played with friends. In my eyes my parents were perfect. They loved my brother, sister and me very openly. My mother was a huge influence, she taught us to be open to seeing life through others' eyes and to accept people for who they are. I never once saw her show prejudice towards anyone. This was where I first learned compassion and understanding.
When I was twelve my parents divorced and we began living with our mother. My teen years weren’t great. I had a falling-out with my father that would last into my twenties. My stepfather was an abusive alcoholic who was a tyrant when he was drinking. I didn't have a strong male figure in my life after the divorce.
These years were filled with dysfunction. I tended to stay in my room a lot as a way of dealing with it. It was during this time that I learned I had a choice of how to handle the things that life threw at me. I could have turned to alcohol and joined him. I could have escaped with drugs. But I chose to rebel against it all. I also learned during this time that we can’t judge those who do become dependant on drugs or alcohol. While it’s
easy to dismiss as a weakness, everyone has their external or inner demons to deal with and we have to put ourselves in their shoes, try to understand them. What I had learned about compassion earlier carried me through this.
Despite a disruptive home life I did well in school. My dating life was a different story. I was always ‘the friend’, a shoulder for others but rarely a boyfriend. While I was happy to be supportive it certainly had its frustrations; sensitive guys don’t get laid much. I was to make up for this when I hit my twenties.
When I was in my late twenties I was finally able to leave home. I couldn’t stand to have beer in my fridge for over a year. I hardly drink now, never did much, and most of you (male or female) could drink me under a table. I’m good with this. Another example of external influences.
I met Sandy when I was 28 and we married a few years later. And all the frustrations, all the disappointment and the hurts I had experienced before faded to distant memory. She was my reward for what I had gone through.
In April of 2008 I had a car accident as I was leaving work one Friday evening. I had been through this experience years previously with Sandy when a car ran a light and T-boned us. But this time would be a significant turning point in my life. That one split-second impact created a ripple whose effects have resonated every day of my life since.
For the following three months I went through physiotherapy to treat torn muscles between the ribs in my back. Physically I healed, but psychologically I was distraught. I was incredibly emotional, and felt I couldn’t revert back to who I had been. For the first time in years I was full of self-doubt and uncertainty. Eventually, athough I regained my self-confidence I began to feel a void, like my life lacked purpose. This feeling and my search to find the reason behind it was to last several months. Shortly before spring of 2009 I realized I needed to take the focus off myself and put it on others. Admittedly I've always had somewhat of a 'hero complex'; I get a lot from giving of myself (I hope this doesn't sound too self-serving). I believed this was the answer I was searching for.
At the time of my accident I had a friend at work who was sending daily quotations to some of us. I remembered how these quotes had often helped me keep things in perspective, and thought it would be a good way to reach out to people. She had since left but I decided to start it up again, and within a few weeks my e-mail distribution list had grown to over 250 people in Canada, Australia, the US, Trinidad and the UK. It was getting out of hand so I began looking for other options, and in March of 2009 “Life In Quotations” was born.
Gradually I began to feature my own writing in the form of quotations, poetry and short stories. As I wrote I started to get a lot more feedback and developed a following. This following turned to friendships, some of which have grown very close. I began to realize I could continue to be a shoulder to others- much more comfortably, in the case of my female friends, as any fear of romantic 'tension' have been removed. Any doubts I had in my ability to develop these relationships had faded. Most of you don't realize how much this helped, you've been a shoulder to me as well and I've always appreciated it.
Where I’m At Now
Two years after the accident I feel better about my life than ever. I adore Sandy, we're more in love today than when we met seventeen years ago. She was incredibly patient with me while I was recovering emotionally (the physical part was easy in comparison). She gave me room to heal, and did it all with understanding when I didn't understand what I was going through myself. I feel I've emerged from that experience a better person, and I attribute a large part of it to her. She never stifled my growth and I love her for it.
I never intended my blog to be about me. Initially it was a way of reaching out to others; as time went on it became cathartic to receive feedback and develop relationships in the process. I realized it wasn't selfish anymore to want to gain something from this. Today, although I do feature my own writing and cover what’s going on in my life, I still like to turn the focus back on my readers regularly. Every one of you are important to me, I write as much for you as for myself.
I’ve had some memorable conversations in recent months. I’ve become more interested in what motivates people, what lies beneath the surface. I want to know about life through people whose experiences are much different than my own, from those of different backgrounds and lifestyles. And although I've grown to have a greater understanding of women over the years you still hold considerable mystery to me; seeing life through your eyes is endlessly intriguing.
I'll continue to learn about the world with an open mind, discover things I haven’t yet. Hopefully continue being fortunate enough to see sides of people they wouldn't normally share. I want to approach it all with childlike curiosity. I want to be loved, but as importantly I want to be trusted. Someone placing their trust in you goes a long way in showing what they think of you. It's a huge demonstration of acceptance, and if I'm honest I guess that's why it's so important in my life.
I’ve grown to realize that if I really want to make a difference while I'm here I should move not mountains, but people. Success in my life has never been defined by career or possessions. For me, success is anything I can do that will make people look back with a smile when I’m gone and think, “I’m glad I knew him.”
That’s what makes me tick.