If, like Zusya (see yesterday’s post), our great work is becoming ourselves, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
“Just be yourself”, people sometimes say, as if it’s as simple as walking out of the door or choosing a different suit of clothes.
But becoming ourselves involves being able to put down years of habit, of convention, of appropriateness, of fitting in, of pleasing people, of accommodating – and also the wisdom to retain that which was given to us and which we yet can really call our own.
It requires mastery of many skills, each of which can require long practice and study:
the ability to discern what’s ours to do;
the courage to choose it, which always means saying no to something else;
the capacity to stay committed when both inner and outer voices yell in objection;
the ability to tolerate strong emotions, confusion and periods of disorientation;
the emotional sensitivity to what’s life-giving and what’s numbing;
the understanding required to know what’s true;
the attunement to what the world is calling for from us;
the mastery of culture needed to appropriate what’s already been given to us;
the imagination and creativity to form it into something new;
and the presence to be in life, with all its mystery, as it unfolds.
Becoming ourselves is neither a single act, nor a declaration.
It is a life’s work. A homecoming. And, ultimately, a work of art.