Posts Tagged ‘parents’

A hooked presence

September 5, 2011

Many of our loved and not-so-loved ones are skewered on the hooks of our resentments.

Our best-known hookees (<== not a real word) are our parents. Some people are excellent parents. They know how to nurture, have the resources required to raise healthy children, and we grow up with a strong sense of self and belonging. Others had parents who should have opted, did not, and many of us grew up in emotionally fragile and damaging environments.

Even if we grew up without parents, we can still hook those invisible beings tightly on a barb and hoist them up high for everyone to see. We can proclaim something profound about how our lives would have been better had they been around to help us. We batter everyone (and ourselves) with the resulting being we have become all because of their actions or inactions. We hold them accountable for our response to their presence. Even invisible parents have a huge presence by virtue of the empty space they do not occupy.

Occasionally, hookees are complete strangers . . . people who happened by in our lives either by design or circumstance and something happened to us that we did not want to happen. Sometimes, we never even see or know our hookees. I have had property stolen from me and never saw the person, but he or she left a mark, a trail, a permanent indentation on my trusting psyche who can forever recount that episode, mourn again what was lost, and have that person’s actions influence my way of being in the world.

Others have had worse episodes of infringement upon their boundaries. Children suffer unspeakable abuse. Entire families are wiped out by murder. Some are left financially devastated by the actions of the greedy and ignorant.

There are deadly villains who are not even human. Along with lions, tigers, and bears, we have microbes, bacteria, and viruses. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes can wipe away any evidence of our prior existence.

On a world-wide basis, famine steals the lives and dreams of thousands. And we are ALL on the hook for that one, but that’s a blog for another day.

Life is a dangerous existence, as I have alluded to before. We have the idea that someone at some point should have made our lives perfect and protected us from reality . . . or at least invented a better reality. And because they didn’t, they are going to pay. In our daily memories, we feel again the humiliation of that forgotten birthday, the embarrassment of a drunk alcoholic showing up at our parents’ night at school, and the betrayal of having just been beat because someone else had a bad day. In our imaginations, we strike back: we think awful things about them, we create vindictive scenarios where we win, and, if they are still alive, we let them know often just how they failed us, and continue to fail us. Or, we don't acknowledge them at all.

But everyone still knows they are there.

Some of us are public torturers. We brandish and berate our hookees publicly, shamelessly, with a flaunting sneer and righteous attitude. We are proud of how those people did us wrong at some point in the past. We don’t hesitate to tell anyone who will listen just how badly we were treated.

Other hookees are silently suffered. The silent sufferer sighs a lot, with woeful heaves and crumpled shoulders. We recognize their burden is tiresome and heavy.

And I want to yell at all of them “Give it up already!” (Yes, some smarter part of me yells this at me, too.)

At some point, we have to lower the hooks and let those people go. Letting someone “off the hook” is a fancy term for “forgive” without all that God stuff looming around it packed with its religious and saintly forebodings. When we let someone off the hook, we also let go of our responsibility for feeding them and the hurts (real or imagined) that they caused. It doesn’t change what happened, but it does change our chemistry – our way of interacting with the world. While that person is still accountable for his or her actions, they can no control our response. We are free to acknowledge the incident, know it will always be a part of us, and transcend it . . . we can still be the presence we intended for ourselves when we came to this life.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

A presence of choice

October 20, 2010

I wonder what the children will remember . . . the children in the homeless shelter where I go to cook on Tuesday nights. It is a family shelter and there are ten children of all ages who live there.

I wonder what they will remember about this time. The older ones realize that they are homeless. The younger ones don’t quite know the implications. They all play and interact just like any other children I have known.

There is this underlying need to be normal. They play, they fight, they have fun just as they would in any other home. I don’t know their histories. It could be that being homeless is normal for them.

Children adjust so quickly to misfortune. It is like there is this inner guidance system that makes them gravitate toward joy and happiness despite their circumstances. As we become adults, though, we tend to lose that gravitational pull and instead let circumstances determine how we feel and how we shall be in the world.

I was never homeless as a child, yet I remember a constant drain on my energy that pulled me away from my normal gravitation toward joy and happiness. I grew up in an environment where to have any kind of thought, feeling, or action that was incongruent with my parents’ thoughts, feelings, or actions was considered improper, disrespectful, and punishable by having anything I enjoyed taken away from me. They were two of the most unhappy people I have ever encountered in my life, and my memories are full of a childhood spent learning how to be unhappy (about everything).

When the world became my parent, I had a real hard time keeping up with all the different responses I needed to accommodate. Everyone who I came into contact with who I imagined had any kind of control over my well-being (i.e., friends, teachers, employers) had control over my responses. As I gained physical and emotional distance from requiring any kind of parenting, I was able to see how I was allowing others to determine my way of being in the world.

Most of my adulthood has been spent learning how to be happy despite everything. For me, it is really a matter of choice. I can use my memories to recount my miseries and wallow in my woe-is-me fantasy. Or, I can watch these children play at the shelter and connect with the child within me who remembers how to be herself no matter what tune the world is dancing to.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass