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The Dilemma of Being Human

I am currently reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which is awesome! It’s about this guy who decides to walk several hundred miles to visit an old friend who is dying of cancer because he believes that it will keep her alive. His walk is a form of penance for all of the people he has failed, including himself. To make up for his passivity, he decides to take a leap of faith that he can walk 600 miles in yachting shoes without a cell phone, a map, or a plan, and be redeemed.

I like this book because it explores how loss and grief can change us and our relationships with the people we love. It has always bothered me that someone who had once been so important to us can become someone who we can’t stand the sight of. Even though it’s less romantic, I would prefer to think of love as a weed that sticks around no matter how hard you try to get rid of it rather than some high maintenance flower like a rose that is easy to kill.

I also like the book because I’ve had this fantasy of walking the Camino de Santiago because some Catholics believe it will halve their stay in purgatory. I don’t know if I believe in purgatory, but if it does exist, I would definitely like to shorten my stay there. I can see why a pilgrimage would be therapeutic. It’s like self-therapy with a rigorous physical activity component.

Along the way, Harold meets people who share their own sorrows, which he feels both comforted and burdened by. The other night I read a line in the book that gave me pause: “Harold cold no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and this was the dilemma of being human.”

This statement is at the heart of what my blog is about. I have always felt different from others in a way that makes me feel alone in the world. For being Filipino and for not being Filipino enough. For thinking too much and for being too shallow. For not being married, for being divorced, for not having children. For having depression and anxiety. Even without these specific differences to point to, I have felt fundamentally flawed in a way that I can’t quite put into words.

But as I blog about my flaws, I realize that other people feel just like I do–alone in their craziness. The details make us unique, but the pain of feeling separate from others is universal.

So in a way I feel like I am Harold Fry, on my journey to self-acceptance, but with a much less rigorous physical activity component. And as I tell my story, I give others the opportunity to reflect on their own story so that we can share the joy and pain of being human together.

The Dilemma of Being Human

Photo: Maria Roman

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

6 responses »

  1. Pingback: Normal in Training – The Dilemma of Being Human | The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

  2. Christ, really loved this. When I was in AZ i stopped in a bakery and bought three chocolate eclairs . I then went into another store and a man behind me hollers “Hello”, you know, so I turn and say “Me”. He replied “No”. I leave the store, he is basically right behind me. I see a bench with shade , it’s hot in AZ . We has been speaking a little. I ask him if he wants to sit. Well I had the eclairs and he had cold soda. So we sat and talked for a while, I remember him telling me he lived at the foot of North Mountain . I always when I lived there, I wanted to be able to look out and see the mountain . When we got up to leave we hugged, a real hug. Said goodbye, told him I come up this way once in a while, maybe I would see him again. I didn’t. The point of this little story not sure but therebis a story about the woman with a port in her chest who had cancer again, in her brain I think and was carrying a box with personal items and her message to me. This has been my whole life, every bus stop it seemed, store sometimes. Thanks for your column . Karen

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    • Thanks for replying Christy. Reading your blog made me remember all the instances throughout my life which I really thought were random. They weren’t . Kind of hard to reconcile that into the equation but nothing else i can do. I go on WordPress at times, not sure I gave anything that others would want tp read. Maybe. Thanks again. Karen

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  3. Thanks for replying Christy. Reading your blog made me remember all the instances throughout my life which I really thought were random. They weren’t . Kind of hard to reconcile that into the equation but nothing else i can do. I go on WordPress at times, not sure I gave anything that others would want tp read. Maybe. Thanks again. Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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