Six weeks ago, I wrote notes for a blog post I titled “bits & pieces”, and then I waited for inspiration to flesh it out. Something critical kept eluding me, and I know enough to let things lie.
More than a year ago, I started trying to write definitively about passing into the third stage of life, that is, getting old. For Pagan women, that often evokes the Crone archetype. Despite having looked forward to becoming ‘an old lady’ since I was a kid, all my attempts to write about any of it positively utterly failed. So I let that lie too.
And now yesterday’s post on ‘mastery’ took me into deep waters. My dreams tell me all these things (and more) are connected.
I realized fairly recently that I enjoy watching children play because of their exuberance. Once you get to be a teenager, that kind of energy is tamped down — it’s no longer socially appropriate. And adults rarely approximate anything close to exuberance. It’s not seemly. It’s not dignified. It’s not serious.
When joy and delight are moving through me, I behave like a ‘free spirit’, which might look like a young child. When I was a young child, I wasn’t allowed to act like one. It was only when I was alone that I was allowed to explore my world and delight in it; but then there was no one to share it with. When I spoke to my mother about my solo adventures, she didn’t share my delight. She taught me to be ashamed of anything that felt good. And the more fun I had wandering away from home, the more she pulled me closer to her, swallowing me with her need for constant companionship. I remember looking into a mirror at age 10 and being surprised that there weren’t wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes; I felt like I was 100 years old, burdened with cares far beyond what I could bear, and yet somehow you couldn’t tell by looking at me.
I barely have any memories of my life before my brother was born, but my mother would often tell me that she would take me out in a stroller to places where there were lots of people, so she could show me off because I was a very cute baby. (And she was desperately lonely.) Apparently I was bright eyed and interested in everything around me. And my mother liked that because I drew people to me, people who then asked her if I was the Gerber baby. And she said I was. It made her feel special and important. Those times, with strangers, were probably the beginning of my ‘sparkle’. It should have been something that happened between mother and baby, but my mother’s primary focus was always herself. She couldn’t open up to the world enough to feel her own delight, never mind share it with me. I shared my delight with her, though, and she hoarded it, and came back for more.
I became a natural resource for her, one that, like sunlight, was thought to be inexhaustible.
As I found external sources of delight, my mother found ways to limit them, or even squelch them. My most important duty must always be to put her first. And her needs were insatiable.
Luckily for me, she valued art, so she allowed me to escape into it, and that saved my sanity and my life. But she disapproved of everything I was naturally drawn to, so I preemptively limited myself so as not to incur her wrath.
I’m only in my mid-40s, but I’ve been ‘acting like an adult’ for almost 40 years. It’s time for a sea change.
I think there are things I’ve been doing unconsciously that fit a childlike paradigm. Judging them by adult standards usually makes me feel bad, but instead of realizing that, and dealing with the underlying problem, I’ve responded defensively by looking for ways to compel others to take me seriously. Which don’t work, so I feel worse. All of which distracts me from noticing that ‘being taken seriously’ doesn’t make any sense, given my worldview. That’s playing their game by their rules. I’ve done serious, for 40 years. It’s not me, not at all. So why would I seek out more of it?
If I play my own game, I can excel at it. And it’s going to be a lot more enjoyable. I need to value what I’m already doing, and seek out more ways to create delight.