Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Learning to Let Go
First, I want to say thank you to those of you that came out to play on my blog-dick blog. It was like an improv. comedy show featuring friends! When you talk to each other here, I smile and laugh and learn. I love the sense of community.
Sometimes it feels like we're having a wild block party and other times it's like we're sitting on a front porch swing, drinking green tea (nod to Melissa), learning to let go and grow. That's what I want to talk about today, letting go and growing. Despite the fact that most of us wish our children to have bright, beautiful childhoods and would shield them from ugliness and harm, ugliness and harm come.
Despite our wishing it weren't so, parents hurt their children. Many of us know this from personal experience. We remember being hurt by the people that ought to have loved us and protected us; it's a pain that is hard to let go of.
Sometimes disease and disaster are visited on children and we are powerless to stop it. Many of us remember childhood as a time of suffering. I believe that childhoods of sunshine and kisses are the rarer thing.This is not new. It is not a sign of our declining society. It has always been so.
Do you realize that most nursery rhymes have dark origins? Ring Around the Rosy is about the Bubonic Plague. A symptom of the plague was a rosy rash in the shape of a ring. Ashes, ashes... we all fall down is a reference to the burning of bodies.
Rock-a-bye Baby is an American nursery rhyme with a sing-song melody. The lyrics likely reflect the Native American tradition of hanging babies in woven cradles from trees. The wind would sometimes knock them down and... well, babies got hurt, sometimes died.
I've actually seen the very same thing happen in developing countries where I have lived and worked. Children are hung from tree branches in woven slings that keep them cool and rock them while their mothers cultivate bush gardens. I have seen children fall... I have heard mothers scream. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that we're unique in our suffering.
We imagine that the average human experience is full of light and that our darkness is the darkest of all. Please hear me, I do not lack empathy. I'm merely saying that throughout history, as reflected in the nursery rhymes that our children chant and sing, children have known suffering. They have not been spared harsh reality. In early societies, children grew up knowing that life is hard. They either lived it or witnessed it.
There was no hiding from pain. It's no different in most societies today. In poorer countries, there are no advocates to protect children from parents who would harm them. There's no community hospital, not even a pharmacy.
They do not see the fresh scrubbed, chubby faces that we see on television screens... portrayals of beautiful, happy children playing with toys. The children who make it to adulthood in developing countries spend no time marinading in their pain. They understand it to be a condition of existence.
Pain comes with living. Here in America, we insulate ourselves and hide from pain. When life is hard, we become steeped in resentment. We think we deserve something easier, better; we become bitter, angry. I hate abuse. I hate suffering. I wish to alleviate it.
My adopted children have known pain beyond what I have known, and my own childhood was far from easy. My husband and I have given them sanctuary because we cannot abide suffering. That said, we don't let our children nurse their pain.
We focus on the fact that they have hope and a future. We focus on the fact that they landed here, in a safe place where they are loved, blessed, cherished. We help them to walk through and move past their pain.Although it may seem counterintuitive, it is NOT a kindness to encourage a child or an adult to wrap themselves in bitterness and pain.
We are fortunate to have been born into a society where we have the luxury of looking back. In developing countries it's not even an option, nor was it in early American history, but just because we CAN spend our lives looking back doesn't mean that we should.
It's good to process the past, to talk about it, to get through it so that we can move beyond it and learn to live in the NOW.