Staying true to self

Turmoil and pain from events, even if separated by 30 years, can be reawakened by the words of a poem.

In Desert Run, Mitsuye Yamada reflects upon her family’s time in an internment camp during World War II. In the last stanza are these words:

I cannot stay in the desert
where you will have me nor
will I be brought back in a cage
to grace your need for exotica.
I write these words at night
for I am still a night creature
but I will not keep a discreet distance
If you must fit me to your needs
I will die
and so will you.

When I re-read those words a few months ago, moments of shunning and rejection came creeping back out of dark passages in my life. Most assuredly, there have been times when I couldn’t/wouldn’t, or can’t/won’t, dance to the tune of someone else. To have done so would have been sacrificial and destructive to my own sense of self and well-being. This isn’t about following instructions or performing job expectations. Rather there have been behavioral and performance expectations of the most unreasonable and servile nature.

What is most interesting to me has been the astonishment and rage, punishment and revenge, observed and experienced as a result. Not bending in order to conform to a misinformed and delusional notion of who I am, or who I should be, comes from my unwillingness to be an enabler. Been there, done that, the ‘walking-on-eggshells’ thing.

As you can see, Ms. Yamada’s poetic reflection struck a nerve with me. Much suffering has come from my resistance. But I must not create a false self to meet unreasonable expectations of others. Nor can I sit idly by and await the next page for me to recite from an unshared and unexplained script. I’ve never been very good at playing guessing games.

If you must fit me to your needs
I will die
and so will you.

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2 Responses to “Staying true to self”

  1. Virgilio Gavia Says:

    i see integrity…and it is so solid.

  2. maskednative Says:

    To live life with honour and integrity, being true to oneself, this is real freedom.
    Your post struck a chord with me too Tom.

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