For decades, I believed I couldn’t stick with anything because I had no future. I’m speaking of jobs, marriages, friendships, projects — until recently, nothing in my life lasted more than a few years before I put it aside to try something new. I blamed it on Diabetes, blamed it on the doctor who diagnosed me. Now, I believe that having to stick to my role, as the difficult child, was at the root of my wandering mind.
I am like my mother. And I certainly suffered from the comparison, in a child’s understanding of suffering — I felt at war with Mom, in my teen years. I had to be worthy of praise from her, and Dad, and teachers, family, friends, friends’ parents, and so forth. As I moved into my teens, I strove to identify one activity, for which I would earn my parents’ love. That one area of my life was music.
I was good at music, too. My musical accomplishments made my parents proud of me, and to me, that was love. So I did well. That may be part of why I don’t make any music now.
Expecting your child to meet a standard of perfection is not reasonable. That expectation is the textbook definition of conditional approval. I didn’t believe that I was lovable, unless I complied, or conformed to standards. Throughout my childhood, I tested every rule to see how far I could go. In short, I did what children do, in order to become healthy individuals. Making mistakes, and doing bad things, (like arguing with a brother or sister,) deserved a simple slap on the wrist, or even a spanking when I needed it. But committing those sins against propriety and peace in our family fed the vicious circle of failure, unworthiness, and more acting out.
There were no simple errors in my childhood. There was serious, earth-shattering failure — every single mistake. How, then, could I be satisfied with who I was? How could I ever tell what was real from what was over-reaction? I couldn’t. How would I ever be a functioning adult, with that distortion in my head from my youngest age? I haven’t. That inability has haunted me for years.
I believe my parents faced the same circumstances, in their childhoods. My father’s family was not a loving or expressive bunch, and I doubt there were warm fuzzies around that living room. My mom was made to pay for ridiculous “failures,” like not standing up straight, by having to wear a harness. Warm fuzzies may have existed in that family, I don’t know; but there were unreasonable expectations, too.
Everyone knows we do what we’ve learned.
I have wandered away from my original subject, but I can circle back to it, I think. I had to fit in, somehow; even including fitting in to that terrible role of bad kid. I never took a chance on anything new, when I was young, and so most of my adult life has been either going overboard with risks, or running from them to roles I felt I could handle. Neither of those extremes has served me well; so here I am, a writer, even though I cannot guarantee that I will be successful in any outward way. Taking this good risk is helping me interpret my life, and that feels like accomplishment enough. And then some.