This is not a blog for gaining your sympathy, engaging in self-pity or for seeking your validation. This is simply how I express myself and I hope you will find an echo of your own voice in my written word.
During a recent heart-to-heart talk with my older daughter, Neha, I realized the reason why I had been engulfed in a feeling of emptiness for so long. "Dad, I am twenty-two years old and I know who I am; figure out who you are!", she told me sternly. She was being brutally honest and there was a silent pleading in her directness to get her father back, a father she knew and idolized as a child. What she didn't realize is that she had not hurt my feelings or caused me any anguish by being so blunt - she had helped me understand that I had lost my identity somewhere along the way. And I didn't even know it.
I took a walk through Central Park after this conversation over dinner and pondered over the stark truth in her statement. After a rainy, warm day, fog was enveloping the lamp posts lining the walking paths. Light was trying to break through the misty air to guide the walkers like me - an apt metaphor for my state of mind. Neha had said so much by saying so little. She was right - I had lost my identity. I wondered how and when that had happened. Perhaps when I lost my innocence during the early formative years, I thought as I reflected back on my childhood. I wondered if it was the adverse experience of our family's constant financial uncertainty or the violent domestic abuse that had blurred my identity. Was it the sexual abuse that I had experienced in early adolescence or my father's traumatic suicide when I was a young adult that had rewired my brain to lose a sense of my true nature? Regardless, the damage had been done. My train of thought was interrupted by the buzzing of the phone in my coat pocket. The iPhone's dark screen lit up with the name Neha. I choked up when she apologized for her harsh words. Fighting back tears, I thanked her for her call and told her that I loved her dearly. She's my daughter and she knows me well. She had heard the pain in my voice. I got a text from her asking me if I was okay and reassuring me that she loved me lot. I told her that I loved her more than she would ever know. I know what she must have thought while rolling her eyes, "Dad, you don't have to be so dramatic?" But, that's the truth.
This much I do know about myself. I love my two daughters more than my own life. I deeply care for their mother. I respect my elders and I forgive easily. I have immense amity for my friends and I try to live my life as authentically as possible - at least I do now. I give my best at work, I love to coach my co-workers so they can flourish, and I have high standards for professional integrity. I have a deep compassion for the less fortunate and my heart bleeds for the abused and abandoned children. Nature invigorates and inspires me. Intellectual curiosity enriches me. I don't hurt anyone intentionally. I give freely and I don't expect anything in return.
It all sounds laudable, doesn't it? Not really. If you really think about it, all of these "qualities" define me because that's what I want to think of myself. Because they make me feel good. That's a highly selfish way of conducting oneself. The fact is that I don't really know who the f**k I am! If that's not a f***ing empty feeling, I don't know what is. So, what am I going to do about it?