16 May

Nothing To Prove. I Am Who I Am

by Jon Katz
I Am Who I Am

I wonder if you couldn’t just be a tad more patient, one woman pleased in a message to me on my blog the other night. Why can’t you be more accepting asked another? Why can’t you just say lie and say thank you and move along?, said a third.

One of the most fascinating experience of my life has been making the transition from the isolated and protected life of the book writer up on his hill to the interactive and very open life of the writer and blogger (and book writer). Book writers were, until recently, treated like fragile pieces of crystal, protected, coddled, nurtured and pampered.

Nobody would ever dare to tell a book writer what to write, or suggest they change their personality a tad or more because they make  others uncomfortable.

Now, this happens to me a dozen times a day. People are always urging me to be someone else. Many times in my life, I wished that I could. I don’t wish that now. Sorry, I say, but I don’t know how to be anybody but me. Take it or leave it.

For me, the most interesting part of this has to do with identity, not argument.

Tell me all day that I am wrong, I will be happy to argue with you or listen. But don’t tell me to change, or it will not go well.

Some days  you will get the good me, some days the bad, I have not led a straightforward and quiet life. But my identity is hard won and precious. The thing about suffering is that it will either destroy you or make you stronger. I am feeling strong these days. I know who I am, and for the first time, I like who  I am.

The most important revelation I have had in my hard work at rebirth and resurrection is to come to see and survive the truth about me, and to discover whether or not I can live with what I see.

Thoreau was my inspiration when it comes to identity. Never give pieces of yourself away, he wrote, never try to be what others want  you be, fight hard and to the last breath for who you are.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he wrote. “From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats.’

People who seek genuine spiritual experience are almost unanimous in acknowledging what they don’t know. I can look anyone in the eye on those rare occasions when I see and talk to actual people and say “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

In the overall scheme of the universe, I am a pea, full of ignorance and blind to most of the wisdom and learning of the world. I am utterly  humbled before the mystery of life.

I bow before the great abyss. I understand that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a kind of love, but I do not know what kind it is.

Richard Rohr, one of the great Christian spiritualist authors, says the path to enlightenment has taken him to this: “There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it’s enough.”

I love this quote, and think of it often. I feel this in my heart and bonds. I am stumbling towards the end of my life, it comes a step closer every day. I don’t dwell on it, but I know who I am. There is no point in pretense or ambition, I don’t need guile.

My interaction with the people who read my work has been a profound gift to me. I learn something every day and draw much support and comfort and encouragement from the wonderful messages they send. My struggle is that I don’t want to be a recluse any more, but I am not giving myself away either.

I am sorry that I disappoint some people and grateful and happy that I inspire others. Life is about being true, not popular or rich. My spiritual life is about staying on the path, I don’t I will never get there, I’m not even sure where or what there is.

Mostly, what I write for is to get people to think, me and the people reading me. If I succeed at that, then I am successful. At this point in life, I find that I no longer have the will or even the ability to charm, dissemble or lie. Having nothing to hide is liberating. I am a million pounds lighter.

I have nothing to prove and nothing to protect.

Ambition is behind me, my many failures and stumbles are richly documented and well known.

I have no need to be perfect, or to live a perfect life. Before the truth set me free, it  depressed the hell out me. I have no need for everyone to like me or agree with me. We are defined by how we disagree, that is the secret to spiritual experience, i believe, that and the willingness to be alone.

I still have countless weaknesses, one is that I hate to disappointment anyone.

I would love to be what everyone wants me to be. But I have learned a couple of things in my life, and one is that this will never happen, I cannot be what everyone wants me to be, I can only be what I want me to be, and what my wife needs and expects me to be.

I’ve read enough of John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory  to know that my whole life has been shaped and honed by attachment traumas, failures and crises. I can be close to very few people, but I can also come to accept the truth about myself, and acknowledge, hopefully with grace, the worst things about me.

My search has brought me to the lover and partner I always sought but never had, my wife Maria. I now have someone to share this hero journey with, every day. I am not alone any longer. That is different.

What I have found, I am sorry to tell some of the people who wish I might one day be different, is that I have grown comfortable with who I am. There is nothing to hide, nothing to protect and nothing to prove. I offer myself and my writing and my work to the world in good faith and honesty.

I am who I am.

And it’s enough…


  1. Thank you, Jon. I am who I am…after months of drugs, I have a face shaped like a full moon, lost a lot of my hair and even had someone tell me that I “sure looked different”…which , at the time, hurt me to the core..as if I did not know that! I finally decided I am who I am…I am the same person inside and if people cannot see by my appearance, I don’t have time for them. So you see, your blog today made me feel so much better. I am not alone in thinking I don’t have to change for anyone as long as I am contented or can at least live with myself.

  2. This is an aside (but related)@: he was who he was. Tom Wolfe died yesterday. I didn’t read everything he wrote but he certainly informed my world view through my 20’s and 30’s. He also authored some of the best titles ever — my favorite being “Radical Chic and Mau-wauing the Flack Catchers” . Pretty much captured the politics of the 70’s and made me laugh out loud. An unbeatable combination.

  3. What a success it is to be able to say, to believe, and to like: “I am who I am” and be comfortable with that. Not many achieve that.

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