I am blessed with a memory that reaches back to the early days of my time here on Earth. It’s interesting see how people’s beliefs are shaped by their own characteristics – many people have refused to believe that I could possibly remember things from my life back when I was one or two years old – simply because their own memories didn’t start to lock in until around five or so.
I understand that these long-ago memories of mine will not be accurate after so many recalls. The brain an interesting peculiarity: we cannot access a memory without also altering it. Whatever thoughts, emotions, or other memories are active at the time become linked to the memory and change your perspective of it.
It’s wonderful to have retained these experiences to some degree of lucidity, but regardless of what I consciously remember I know that my brain has been recording everything in some way shape or form since my existence began.
The times when our memory kicks on the strongest is during emotional extremes. Both elation and trauma will be sure to strike a mark into the record books as the most useful experiences – to be repeated or avoided. Whether or not you can recall these intense times, they become the community of concepts that forms our deepest-rooted operating system – beyond our conscious awareness.
There is so much buried in the subconscious mind that colours and shapes the way we operate in the world and this side of us, when ignored, will grow out of control. Like that back part of your yard just behind the shed that you never think to look at, the weeds will grow until they gain sentience and start plotting your demise.
Or something like that.
Of course while our bruised and scarred subconscious does cause us trouble, it is not plotting anything against us. All of that past trauma is recorded and utilized to attempt to keep us from repeating damaging situations.
But, like the weeds behind the shed, they will grow to epic proportions when left unchecked and turn into monsters simply by their sheer size. If you leave the weeds to their own ways year after year they will be sure to rot out the bottom of your fence, allowing the rabbits to get into your yard and eat all the lettuce out of your garden.
The weeds just want to live and thrive and don’t know they’re not supposed to allow the fence to crumble and fade into oblivion. They don’t realize that their very existence is compromising the health of your property and allowing outsiders to rob you of the produce you worked so hard to grow.
And they don’t care. Their only job is to live.
Just as the weeds do, the parts of our being that are meaning to protect us will become destructive when left unattended. They, too, will knock your fence down and let the outside world damage you in ways it wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Ironic considering their entire reason for being is protection.
Whether or not you remember what it was like to be a child, the child within you will always be there. Inside of our psyche is all of the innocence and clarity of desire that was with us in our young years, and that eternally young part of you will always have needs to fulfill.
There is a legal term called “willful blindness” that refers to an intentional lack of knowledge regarding what’s allowed and what isn’t. You may be pulled over for speeding and claim that you did not know the speed limit dropped from 70 to 50 and you thought you were abiding by the law.
I can tell you from experience that this does not get you out of the speeding ticket.
Our lives operate on a set of laws as well, and being blind to what is necessary to keep you out of trouble will not help you to avoid disaster. Just like the laws of nature, you cannot break them – you can only break yourself against them.
There is nothing useful in destroying yourself against a set of unbreakable laws. Had someone stood up to the Berlin wall and beat their head against it until their skull caved in, many would stand behind their spirit but none would be so foolish as to repeat their actions.
Willful blindness may be one way of trying to operate outside of the rules, but it may also simply be a way to conserve energy – it takes effort to learn the rules and even more effort to be sure you’re following them.
This, however, is a false economy. While you may be saving some energy by avoiding that work now, you are making more work in the long run for yourself and others around you. Your avoidance of the wild plants growing behind your shed saves you time in your weekly lawn maintenance but will inevitably cause more inconvenience when you have to replace the fence.
Or live with outsiders perpetually intruding on your property.
You can make your bed either intentionally or passively, but one way or another you’re going to have to lie in it.
While it’s important to look inward and see what kind of tending your garden requires for your own quality of life, it’s even more important when it comes to the connections you have all around you. Whether we have a family of our own or not, our collective experience is passed along to the next generation. You don’t get to disconnect yourself from the world, and everything you do will carry on through the ages as an echo of your way of life.
Everything we do is filtered through our own understanding of the world and what we believe to be the best way to live. None of us will get it perfect, simply because there is no such thing as perfect, but those that strive for the best result possible will free themselves to a greater degree from the shackles of repeated mistakes.
Absolutely none of us gets through our childhood without some level of trauma – all of us enter the world of adults as damaged human beings. And we’re all operating the best we can with the experience we have, but one little known secret to those in their formative years is this:
Nobody knows what they’re doing. We’re all stumbling and working to make the best of what faulty model of life we have.
This is particularly deceptive considering what a trend it is to play it cool. Act like you have it all under control. Don’t show the weakness of vulnerability.
It’s so silly that all of us are lost and confused but nobody is “supposed” to show it. This sends a looming message to the next up and coming generation – we have it all figured out and so should you.
But this running dishonesty brings with it a few weaknesses – for one, human beings are not stupid and will hit a point in their development where they’ll realize that something’s up… that everyone is acting much more confident than their position justifies.
For another, the only way you can fit in is to follow the mold, at least to some degree, and don’t fall outside of the behaviour of the herd. When you act too far outside of the norm of expected behaviour, and I can tell you this from vast personal experience, you will be rejected.
Unfortunately for those that are looking for their community around them to be a role model, this ignores one important truth about all of us in our futile effort towards perfection:
We are usually wrong.
One way or another, everything we do has some level of imperfection to it. But admitting this requires a level of vulnerability that is difficult for many people to take on, and it paints a target on those that choose to.
We can free ourselves from the burden of passing along our chain of generations-long baggage, or at least lessen the blow that it deals on those that come after us. A habit of introspection and steady growth of self understanding will bring with it a crucial honesty with who you truly are. And those that carry themselves with the knowledge that they are imperfect will be a model for honesty.
None of us will get everything right, and this should not be kept hidden. Even if you can not free yourself from the chains that bind us to our mistakes, you can at least give this some transparency that will make mistakes an acceptable way of life. This will not only take the pressure off of your internal push for perfection, but also encourage those around us to carve their own path and make their own mistakes.
After all, self-understanding is deceptive. How much do you really know about yourself? I can promise you it’s probably less than it feels like – you are too complex to be able to wrap your mind around your whole being. And this is more than okay – this is how it is.
Knowledge can offer freedom from a closed mind, and self knowledge can offer freedom from a closed personality. While it’s important for you to form a stable concept of yourself, it’s dangerous to assume that your concept can be locked down and still steer you wisely through the unpredictability of the eternally stormy waters ahead.
There is one couple I know that has family together. Their dynamic is far from what I would call healthy: she is afraid to make any mistakes and rules her life and her household with an iron fist. Her lack of emotional maturity makes her a tyrant and a temperamental time bomb.
He is afraid to stand up for himself and submits to her ever explosive whims. Too afraid to rock the boat, he puts up with horrible treatment and recalls some things she says to him that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy.
They have children as well – the girl is spoiled and treated with obvious favour. When she cries in the middle of the night she knows she just has to be relentless enough about it and daddy will come to save her from her discomfort at the cost of his own quality of life, even when she’s just vying for attention.
The boy is an afterthought. He is not the emotional priority and the lesson that is coming across by action is that he comes second to the temperamentally unpredictable women of the house.
They have come together with their insecurities locked in place. And there is always a justification for it – a reason not to confront the issues that put heavy strain on both the romantic relationship and the parenting relationship. Life is busy and it’s easy to write these things off as not having the time or energy to face them.
But here we see people that fail to understand that their own insecurities are being lived out and passed along to the next generation. The overly-catered little girl is being emotionally spoiled and chances are she will grow up to be an entitled tyrant like her mother before her.
And the boy that is in runner-up priority will grow up with the concept ingrained within him that his needs come second. Living in chaos and not having his needs attended to will be the norm, and a stable and fair relationship will seem boring and unfamiliar to him.
Those that do not make peace with who they are and face the darkest parts of themselves will become that darkness and pass it along. Either we deal with our problems or we let them pile up and topple over onto whomever comes next.
It is my greatest wish to come to peace with as much of myself as possible. Of course this is for my own benefit, but I am more concerned with what I will pass along. I don’t yet have a family but I dream of having one someday, and I hope that I am able to raise children that are comfortable within their imperfections and ready to take on whatever challenges get in the way of their own progress and peace.
How about you? Are there parts of your life that are inexplicably difficult? Do you feel like you’re always getting the short end of the stick and can’t explain why?
Have you cut the weeds behind your shed?
While you ponder this, be sure to be kind to yourself and keep your criticism on the bright side. After all, if it weren’t for the rainy days, nothing would be green.