My father died five years ago today. I think more about him on his death day than on his birthday. To me, his death day seems more significant. The blank canvas of birth transformed, over the course of a life, into a many layered and complex painting that is finished by death, even if that death came too soon.
When I spoke at his funeral, I started by saying that everybody knew him in a different capacity. Husband, father, brother, friend, colleague, music lover and Stabat Mater expert.
The last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about him and what I said. It is true that we all knew different aspects of him. Some parts overlapped. To me, he was not just my father, he was much larger in my life than that one facet. Still, there were parts of him I had no access to, or knew nothing about. So, where was his full person, the real self? Who can say they really know someone?
In the “About” page on this blog, I profile myself as married, mother and sculptor. These are integral parts of me, but of course only part of the picture. By splitting myself into distinct roles, I am in fact hiding the real “me”. Even if I added many more aspects, each layer would only serve to further hide who I am.
All these aspects of me have different faces. The “mother” is not the same as “the friend” and will in fact not respond the same in any given situation. That is because all these personae are also partly based on the expectations of other people around us. As a mother for instance, I have a certain role and I need to fill that role. Sometimes that means I have to act. So when then do I integrate all these aspects into “me”?
This is something my father and I often talked about. I am only “me” in the solitude of my soul and that often means literally in solitude. I am comfortable in solitude. Like my dad, I am in essence a solitary person. I like going for walks on my own, alone with nature gives me the chance to think and reflect without distractions or outside pressure. And time spent working on a sculpture is like meditation for me.
I sat beside my dad when he died, but even though his loved ones were there with him, he still he had to go through those last moments on his own. No one knows what his last thoughts were. You are born in the solitude of your own soul and this is also how you will die.
Part of life is like that, even if you’re not alone, you are still on your own. My father used to say that life is often by necessity an act, because real communication between people is almost impossible. He felt that the image and expectations others have of you distort how they perceive what you say, and also that they can’t separate this from how they feel the impact of your words on themselves. So a simple “I don’t feel like doing (…) tonight” can all too easily be interpreted by another person as a form of rejection. Honesty is much praised, but true honesty is seldom appreciated. Much easier then to excuse yourself with a headache.
I think it is this negative brain pattern, the incapacity to see anything other than as a reflection upon ourselves that makes us feel hurt when our horses ignore us. We feel rejected and wonder what we did wrong…
But our horse may just have their attention elsewhere, or it is time to dream, or graze, or to just stand and feel the wind blow.
I have found that my horses are most interested in me when I come to them feeling whole and still within. If I go to my horses when I am in one of my “roles”, there is no connection, all I get from them is an uninterested animal. It is not enough to be “in the moment” I have to myself in the moment.
My horses know without a doubt who I am and, unlike humans, they are not judgemental. They do however demand total honesty. My dad would have liked that.