As with many Americans, because my family came here as immigrants—as did everyone else in the world to their respective countries however long ago that was—I have an interest in my roots. Over time, roots get buried so deep that digging one up disrupts everything you thought you knew about yourself and who you thought you were.
For a few generations, we may hold dear notions that help us identify certain character traits which seem out of whack with others in our community. Possibly, we have an affinity for a certain language or culinary dish. We may particularly like a certain attitude to life and the culture that attitude spawns. Someone in the family may make an assumption about a recent ancestor based on where that ancestor grew up. Someone else may embrace a particular story about a distant relation based on where that person was born.
The “I am this, therefore I am that” mindset.
Without doubt, we prefer to cherry pick according to our particular and peculiar preferences and needs. When our assumptions are vanquished by facts, our reaction is sometimes denial, a flat refusal to believe the truth, or, best case, a sense of relief that at last we know something about our past that is neither wishful thinking nor fanciful fabrication.
Occasionally, our negative reaction to these facts causes us to have adverse reactions to the truth-teller. After all, we were happy and comfortable in our personal mythology and the world-view upon which it was based. Although, in our heart of hearts, we know we can never again be sure of that world-view once we have been confronted with the truth, we will hold to what we thought we knew and shun those who have shattered our much-loved legends.
In essence, our personal mythology had become our belief-system and we are shaken from a place in which we felt we belonged when, all that time, we did not. And sometimes, that place was not the best place for us. Sometimes, the baggage of falsehoods prevents us from becoming all we were meant to be.
Loosed from the security of long held, but erroneous information, we are at liberty to embrace a new, factual tale of our lives. Like snowdrops rising from the debris of winter, in the long run, the truth does indeed set us free.
Truth also opens many new and exciting possibilities, especially for those of us who are writers, painters, dancers, musicians, choreographers, photographers, quilters and all of the rest of the creative endeavors we undertake when we are inspired.
There are certain stories about my ancestors that have shaped the kind of person I am today. It would be hard for me if I found out those stories weren’t true, but I think I’d rather know the truth than cling to a lie.
So true, James. I have the same dilemma with my maternal grandfather. We’ve always thought he was French Canadian but that fancy has proved to be mistaken. Now, I must account to one member of the family who is convinced her love of all things French is inherited… I too prefer the truth. One can be a Francophile without a blood connection.
Oh Jeez. That would hit me pretty hard too. I’ve always been told my ancestors were French, and I think I’d have a hard time giving up on being French.
James, I think, with your last name, you’re safely confident of your heritage, mon ami. Thank you for commenting. Merci!