1. Buddhist

Reclaiming the Narrative of My Life – II

In my early childhood, by all accounts – photos, other’s contemporaneous statements, and my scant actual memory – I experienced joy on a consistent basis, whether it was being with family or exploring new things.   But for a variety of reasons, after around age 7, the joy of my childhood ceased and from that point on I experienced life as an adult.

Several years ago, I realized that my “memory” of those years was not accurate.   That my ego-mind had created a narrative that was much worse than the reality.   And so I reclaimed the story of my life.  See my post, “Reclaiming the Story of Your Life.”

Recently, after a visit to a spirit guide, I reflected on my childhood and realized some truths that I had not realized before and now at her urging I am truly reclaiming my narrative by rewriting it, not just making it more factually accurate.

What caused me to loose that joy was not some disappointment about myself, it was my interactions, and also the lack thereof, with others.   And it all happened around the age of 7 – 9.   Here is the narrative I have lived with all these years.

My father would get very upset, literally red in the face, because I was a poor eater.   He would send me up to my room with some frequency.   At the time, I felt rejected and became nervous to eat with him.   He said I wasn’t normal and sent me to the family doctor who responded that I was a very normal child, actually a good eater for a child, but that didn’t satisfy my father.

My mother and grandmother went to play cards once a week at night at friends’, getting home around midnight.   I would be left alone; my brother had graduated and was in the Navy.   At the time, I was scared and feared being abandoned.

Several neighborhood rough boys grabbed me, took me to a field, stripped me, held me down, and peed on me.  I knew i was different, I wasn’t a rough and tumble all-American boy.   At the time, I was filled with shame, devastated, I never told my mother or another soul what had happened, and had to face the fact that there were people out there who truly did not like me.

The result of all of those things happening around the same time was that I decided that I needed to excel in everything I did in order to gain people’s respect.   That that was how I was going to gain social desirability from peers and love from my parents.   Everything that I loved in life . . .  music, learning . . .  became a tool and so I stopped receiving any joy from those things.   I no longer experienced those things with a child’s innocence and wonder.      

How to rewrite this narrative and reclaim that early joy?   The point here is that deep down I never felt there was anything wrong with me.   I was happy with who i was.   it was the reactions of others who drove all the joy out of me.  It was my ego-mind that decided that, in agreement with my father and peers, that there was something wrong with me.

What was my destiny; what is my destiny?  In looking at my childhood photos (consistently smiling with truly joyous expressions; taking joy in everything) I think my destiny was and is simply to be a good human being.   To love life and to experience and give joy and love to someone, and to myself.

That is not my need because of an unhappy childhood, that is my destiny because of the child I was born.   Just like my seriousness is part of my being a Capricorn, it’s part of my birthright, it is part of who i am, my joy is part of my being a human being.   That is central to my true Buddha nature, my divine essence.

When I started this process, I thought that the new, reclaimed narrative would have me have more friends, be popular, play sports, maybe have a sibling closer to my age.   But none of that is part of my new story

My rewritten story is that I had the presence and the training to not care what others thought of me.   That my parents supported me in my difference, not just when I came out to them in later life, which they did, but in my childhood.   That I knew that I had everything inside myself to be at peace and happy.   And that I knew i would be ok, safe, regardless what life threw my way because I would always return home to my heart, my true self, and so be at peace and happy.  And so while the things I experienced are unchanged, my reaction, my response to them is very different.

Here is my re-written story:

I was born into a loving family – parents and an older brother.   And close family friends added to the loving circle around me, Charlotte and Aunt Lisa.   I didn’t have friends my own age in the neighborhood, but I know from pictures that my parents went sledding and ice skating with me, and in the summer we would go swimming at Green Lane.   I was a happy child, full of joy, for no particular reason other than the joy of being and experiencing.   My father wrote that I was his ray of sunshine.

We moved to Reading when i was 4 and the cast of characters changed somewhat, my mother’s friend Hilda became a constant presence, but the basic family relationship continued.   The one change is that my father wasn’t around much, having started a new business and working morning to night,  7 days a week.    I barely saw him.

When I was six, my parents bought me an old upright piano and i started taking lessons.   I loved playing the piano and would come downstairs before breakfast to play some notes.   I also started school and loved my 1st and 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Paul, who was nurturing.   I remember one open house she had gotten an old wooden churner and we churned our own butter from cream; it was delicious.   I remember the joy I felt.  I took a potted plant to her home for Easter.

There was also joy exploring the creek in the old estate down on the corner, overturning rocks, looking for crayfish.   Adventure was there and in the woods close to our home.

The above paragraphs reflect my childhood as it really was.   Here there was nothing to reinvent, just rediscovering what was.

It is the next section of my rewritten story, what happened to me at age 7-9 and afterwards, that gets reimagined.   I have enough sense of self as a child and knew I was loved so that these experiences didn’t upset me, my reaction and response to them were different.   For example, when my father would get upset with me and send me to my room, I knew my father grew up in WWI Germany and was very sensitive to food scarcity.   And he wanted me to be normal for my benefit.   It didn’t mean he didn’t love me.   

My mother somehow had no clue that you don’t leave a 9-year old alone at night, in her mind she wasn’t neglecting me.   But instead of giving in to being scared, I made a game of it, invented a friend to share the time with, and relished being alone.   

When I got home from being abused by the boys, I now told my mother, who was infuriated.   She told me never to be ashamed of who I was, regardless how some people acted towards me.   That I was loved and valued and had so much to offer.  That i didn’t need to be liked by anyone to be happy.   That there would always be those who didn’t like me, but that was their problem, not mine.   These boys were sick.

And so I reacted to these events with an, it’s just the way it is, attitude and felt it’s all ok, i’ll be safe regardless.   I continued going about my childhood life doing the things I enjoyed . . .  music, learning, exploring, being in nature . . .  and taking joy in the wonder of these things.   I had my few friends who I spent a lot of time with.   I didn’t try to be someone other than I was.

Because I was bright and my parents encouraged me, I did very well at school.   But I was aware that the other children were competitive and sensitive to their abilities or lack thereof, so I never used my knowledge as a weapon.   I  consciously didn’t shine and wasn’t prideful.   (Definitely not true in reality. )

When I was in high school, students started becoming focused on what you wanted to do with your life, what you wanted to be.   I had some thoughts about that.   I had always been very good at math, found it stimulating, and thought that i would become a mathematician.   Later in life I went to law school, worked as a nonprofit executive, became an author of Buddhist and political books, and a sometime composer.   

But as much as I enjoyed doing these things and I was good at them, I never felt that they were my destiny.   I understand now that’s why I never had a passion for any of these things, which bothered me for a long time.

And so with my newfound knowledge and faith, i would have continued to do the things I enjoyed just for the sake of doing them and the joy I experienced in the process.   I would do things just for fun, not for any practical purpose.   I would sometimes waste time, knowing that enjoying wasted time is not wasted.

There’s nothing wrong with not having a passion for something.   What is important is that my work brings me joy, and it does that now.

I know my destiny is simply to be a good human being.   To love life and to experience and give joy and love to someone and to myself.   That is what I have a passion for.   Luckily I have achieved my destiny because years ago Ken and I found each other and our relationship has evolved into a deep, abiding love with trust and respect.   It is totally reciprocal.    There is no one else i could imagine spending my life with.   Our love is the joy of my life, my treasure.

In reaching back more into my childhood, I realized that both my parents really were very joyful people.   My father especially was full of life, and he loved people.   He was always smiling, reaching out to people.   And he always found a way to make something positive out of a negative, an adversity.   Like when he was interned in England and wrote plays to entertain his fellow internees.   Of course he wasn’t always “up;” that wouldn’t be human.   

And my mother was also usually smiling.   She had a wonderful, positive attitude.   She may not have done much to protect me, but that doesn’t take away from her being a joyful person.

And so oddly enough (given where this whole process started), I see my parents as role models in my attempt to reclaim the joy of my early childhood, and the joy that was taken away from me by events that I was not equipped to handle.   But in my rewritten narrative, I was equipped to handle.   And so I take joy now.

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