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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Burdens of Childhood

The dissident rebellion of my youth caused all around me much grief. Yet, none was more affected by this than me, feeling the angst that led to the rebellion that caused the grief, and then, the guilt of having caused the pain at all. Most people think that as a child, one is given more to action rather than thought, acting out in order to establish a sense of self, balance, boundaries, you name it. But I would beg to differ about this state of mind so easily over-generalized about. For me, from my earliest memory, my head was always abuzz with a collection of thoughts, both coherent and otherwise, occurring in a seemingly random cascade that would occasionally throw up an urge, which when acted upon, never seemed to be in relation to what was going on around me at the moment. My family and friends excused me as being odd. But in my mind, it was the world that was out of sync with me, no matter how hard I tried to bridge this growing gap.

It was hard to deal with the fact that my parents were not like anyone else's parents. I have to admit that this point of view is rather naive, given the fact that I have lived to see adulthood and now understand the nuances that exist in the semblance of relationships portrayed to the public. My parents were both educated individuals who came together at the urging of their loved ones, and following the handling of the business part of this transaction that eventually resulted in their marriage to one another. This was a very different time in the world, with all its trappings of devoutly followed religious practices offset by those who chose to either question everything, or simply abandon it all for the wonderful world of what most still refer to as a "hippie" life. Against this backdrop, and from a background that though in keeping with the times, was most orthodox, my parents were paired off to add their own experiences to the cauldron of civilized life. But none of the adults of that day and age thought to question this logic, shrouded in fear and the imagined but still urgent need to propagate the "culture" that supposedly carried all of us to more realized futures.

Children react to stimuli even before they develop the awareness to know and understand that this is what they are doing. The unease, growing more clear and vehement with the passing of the days, made life interesting on the home front, in a manner that seeks to define this word by embellishing it with loads of sarcasm. It was strange, but in those situations where we had to present ourselves as a cohesive unit in front of others, my initial attempts at acting like those I observed met with much disdain. Trying to simply be, so that by living I could discover who I was wasn't't working either. So, the best thing to do was to be silent, quiet, essentially, playing statue so as not to attract attention and the opportunity to be singled out for all things except praise. The growing distance between my mother and father, plain for all eyes to see, yet amazingly convenient for them to ignore, was something that I had trouble reconciling to myself. And so, in trying to deal with this, I began to react in a manner that singled me out for a treatment that the children in most other families would never have to endure, resulting in being sent off to boarding school to see if someone else might be able to turn me into a normal human being.

The basic trouble with the burdens of one's childhood is the lifetime it takes to move beyond them, to be able to go, "You know, my life was tough, but I made it through all of this and here is what I learned..." Some of us get over it because they are, or certainly are forced to become better equipped to deal with this. Some others of us are fortunate to be able to turn to people who give them advice they can act on, while offering them all the silent support they need. And the last group of some of us, well, we stumble and grumble as we repeat the stumble, having to figure things out for ourselves, and needing to make the time and space to arrive at our own catharses. Like Life in general, this is tough. Yet, unlike life, this is not a state of being that is natural, mostly because in many cases, the suffering of children, in whatever manner such suffering manifests itself, is the result of a decision not in the child's control. It is usually two consenting adults who decide to take the next step in their lives, settling down and starting a family, procreating for the sake of humanity, society, or some other worthy cause. Yet, one of the biggest burdens of my childhood has been understanding the fact that two people who were brought together by the demands of social convention, to offer each other companionship in their old age, as a sort of final consolation in the argument made on behalf of marriage, were able to have a child, but treat his as collateral, a sort of trump card to be won over to one side or the other, because two out of three is a majority, and therefore somehow justified. And this is from someone who is perfectly well aware of the fact that he had a much easier go of this than most. I do not envy children growing up in war zones, or in the midst of human epidemics and disasters, been forced to fend for themselves on all fronts because there is absolutely no one else to care for their survival. Oh the horrors we inflict upon ourselves, looking on in sheer amusement at the tragedies being acted out, because the only remedy for self-suffering is commiseration, which in this day and age, means creating hell on earth for us all.

I believe the extant reality of children being burdened with the trappings of our decaying civilization is best captured by the following quote: "The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults." ~ Peter De Vries

And so, it continues...
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