Color? Or Black & White?
Not everything is as it appears at first glance.
Sometimes you must look more closely at something, to see what’s really going on there. Sometimes it pays to change angles as well, to look at things from a different perspective. And time is the only true equalizer for some things. Looking back makes us realize how unimportant some things really are, when they seemed so very important at the time they happened.
Most of my memories of childhood and being a teenager, are nothing more than answers to trivia questions now, although some things that happen when we are quite young have life-long consequences. By that I mean they make us into the adults we later become. The more painful the event, the more consequential it becomes as we move through life, because children and teenagers are generally not emotionally capable of resolving life changing events in a constructive way. Most of us still carry around unpacked emotional baggage from earlier life events. It’s just part of the deal. These are the kinds of things that keep therapists busy but may not have any real meaning in any other way.
Some things that appear to us as being a certain way when we are very young, turn out to not be the way they appeared to us at the time. Often, time is the only thing that can cure us of our misconceptions. That is, time and maturity that we acquire through our own life experiences are what we ultimately learn from. I believe these aha! moments occur throughout life, and the truth is only revealed in bits and pieces as we need to know it.
My early childhood was nearly ideal. I have many happy memories of that time, growing up in Southern California, in the late 50’s and 60’s, where the weather was mostly warm and sunshiny every day, all the kids in my neighborhood were above average, and we spent hours playing outdoors in the sunshine together. As I grew through elementary school, Jr. High, and high school, most of my traumas were caused by the bullying of other kids, more than anything that was going on at home. That said, my home life wasn’t as ideal and perfect as I thought it was either, and the cracks in that foundation split wide open when I was a teenager, leaving me a terribly wounded soul throughout most of my young adulthood.
My true healing didn’t even begin to take place until the early aughts, when I attended a couple of weekend workshops known as The Inner Child Journey. These workshops attracted a hundred or more participants whenever they were offered. I attended more than one of these events, the first one I signed up for on my own, and then a few years later, it was a required workshop to attend to obtain my practitioner license.
Most of the inner work that goes on in these workshops centers on early childhood experiences, and since I didn’t have any real childhood traumas (I thought) it was more of a learning experience about how to put on a workshop than anything else. I wished that more attention was paid to the teenaged years than to early childhood, because that’s when life became most painful for me.
The workshops are set up so that you go through some concepts with a facilitator, and then you break into smaller groups to work through the concepts with fellow attendees. The most painful event for me, was when my parents split up and divorced. At the time, I had very strong beliefs that divorce was always wrong, that people should never get one, and that the experience had basically scarred me for life. Just to be clear, my parents divorced in the early 1970’s and these workshops took place around 2008 or so and then again around 2015. That’s a very long time to carry pain around.
During one of the breakout sessions, we were split into groups of 5 or 6 participants. Our initial assignment was to introduce ourselves to our small group and tell them what we thought the most painful thing was about our childhood and what we were looking to heal during the workshop. We went around the small circle, and I was one of the last to tell my story. Before it was even my turn to share though, one of the other participants told how she felt so traumatized because her parents had STAYED MARRIED, and according to her, it would have been SO much better and less painful for everyone in her family if they had simply divorced. They fought like cats and dogs for years, and their anger had occasionally turned to violence, which she and her siblings hid in closets and under beds to avoid.
Well, that story sure took the wind out of my sails. I realized suddenly that we all have traumas and sometimes the traumas we think we have may be the very same things that someone else would be happy to embrace. I don’t say this to make light of anyone else’s trauma. If it’s real to you, it’s real. I’m merely suggesting here that there may be more than one way to look at it, that’s all. In this instance, I had spent 25 years carrying around pain about my parents’ divorce, and someone else had spent the same number of years carrying pain because her parents DIDN’T divorce. This was a huge revelation for me and contributed greatly to my healing.
The truth is, people like me have often been called “over thinkers,” and there may be something to that. I figure that by the time I get everything figured out in life, I’ll have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel and I’ll be slidin’ into home. Maybe, the truth is, I don’t need to figure it all out, and I can simply live my life, breathing in and out, and enjoy the sunshine while I have it, like I did when I was a small child. You know, lighten up a little bit. It might be that not everything I think matters, matters in the long run. Maybe nothing else really matters than just enjoying the day and being the best human I can be.
I’ll leave you with this song by Metallica, a group headed by a fellow Brea Olinda High School graduate, James Hetfield of Metallica. I never knew him; he graduated years after I was already gone from there. The most vivid memory I have of this song is when my teenaged daughter at the time, learned to play it on the guitar. She played it for hours in her bedroom.
The image I’ve included with this post looks like black & white but look more closely. The color is subtle.
Click on the link and the video will open in a new tab: