Brisbane – Australia – April – 2021
Is life a rainbow yet … or are we ‘hanging in there’, getting by, thinking that it could be worse – and that it probably will be?
Either way, hi there, dear Reader, I’m so happy you’re here. 😊
So many billions of us have ploughed through years and years feeling that life was an unrewarding rat race; that we had had a few gut-punches too many already.
Perhaps many of those among us who are currently contemplating the likelihood of their imminent mortality feel that there’s no real point in praying to live another year.
Not unlike the fish in the sea overwhelmed by industrial, agricultural, residential waste and noise, we, too, are overwhelmed by the stress, fear, frustrations, disappointments, insecurities and static that have latched on to each of our body’s systems since our earliest years.
Whatever we felt we got – or didn’t get – shaped the emotional quality of the relationship we have had with ourselves and, later in life, with others.
Up to this day.
Up to the moment we sit up on our metaphoric little raft.
Keen to prevent the waves breaking under the hull to become rip-tides jarring our day-to-day, today and every day, we breathe.
We breathe consciously.
Our gaze is focused on the horizon where we trust unshakably that, though still out of site, a wonderful rainbow is about to illuminate the sky.
For many of us, even by primary school age, there have been more disappointing and anxiety-fraught moments than caring, joyous ones. Even before our 4th birthday.
A total absence of fear or vulnerability was uncommon for most of us.
Genuine parental validation was rarer than dollar coins in our piggy bank.
Our young selves internalised that lack.
We adjusted to it. We compensated for it, and our ego-persona ego-mind developed accordingly.
However, unlike crabs that grow by shedding their shells once they intuitively sense they’ve outgrown them, we have kept growing and growing our ego-persona shells.
Every experience of sadness, fear, anticipation, rejection, disappointment, joy and trust, gained or lost, has consolidated our ego-mind further over the ensuing years.
So much of our early training and how we internalised it and responded to it has defined the emotional, behavioural patterns that drive us throughout the plot beats of our adult life!
In the absence of trauma and whether we consider we had a blissful childhood or a challenging one, weren’t there times when no one came to comfort us when we cried because we were frightened or felt insecure?
Or times when we were told there was nothing to cry about and to, therefore, stop crying immediately?
Weren’t we encouraged to perceive sweets as rewards for good behaviour or as tokens of parental affection?
Weren’t we handed a cookie or a toy in exchange for being quiet or as a substitute for a comforting hug?
Some of us, then, cried even louder, this time out of a sense of vulnerability and feeling unimportant.
Sure. Afraid to be misunderstood, laughed at or ‘found out’ as lacking in one way or another, many of us cried ourselves to sleep – quietly.
Weren’t there times, too, when, as our parents argued and overlooked our needs, we somehow felt responsible for their unhappiness?
Many parents liked us best when we kept our pain hidden.
As they did their own.
We became so good at keeping our emotional and sometimes even our physical pain inside that they didn’t realise we suffered at all.
Can we honestly say that our mind and our heart have not retained much from the accumulation of such moments?
Many parents were reactive, too.
Many encouraged us to ‘not be led by the nose’ but to react, instead.
Now that we are all grown up, we know that everything we still react carries a ‘signal’ from the past.
So much past resentment is unhealed and unmanaged.
Equally, when our best friend betrayed our trust, didn’t we feel a degree of unworthiness and personal irrelevance?
What did we feel when we betrayed theirs?
What happened in our mind and heart and gut when we sensed disproval from our mother or father?
Or from relatives?
There were times when their disappointment in us was made painfully clear.
So many emotional wounds bandaged over that never healed!
We probably internalised it as a dislike of who we were, and their reactions broke our heart.
We felt shoved aside, cast off, unimportant, unprotected – unloved.
Or anger may have seemed our best line of defence.
Reject them before they reject us. That felt like courage.
Bottom line: we often felt seriously ‘under-loved’. Certainly not as loved as our young selves needed to feel loved.
Then, when an older brother or a sister – or a parent – physically or emotionally disconnected from the family for reasons that, perhaps, made sense to them, but not to us as children – another piece of our heart was broken off.
Now that we are all grown up, we are able to actively accept that each of our emotions is in the moment underfoot as a fresh opportunity to tap a different key – to respond differently – to be brave enough to explain our sense of vulnerability in a measure, coherent manner.
Not a challenge for the faint-hearted, that’s true.
Reality check: from our first breath to our last, we all want one thing most of all.
We want to FEEL loved.
Serious questions: knowing that LOVING is a skill that, like every other skill, is developed through consistent practice, do we ask ourselves often enough these simple questions:
Am I loving enough? Am I showing my love in a way that is meaningful to my child/partner/parents/sibling/best friend?
Am I loving as fully as I can?
What is my ulterior motive when I tell my children/partner/parent/sibling/friend that I love them?
Reality check: many of us were doing life struggling with a ‘broken heart syndrome’ long before we blew out candles on our 7th birthday cake.
Long before the global pandemic destabilised ‘the world’ as we knew it … back then.
Then, as now, though we don’t seem aware of it, satisfying our cravings and impulses in one way or another has remained our priority.
Then, as now, each time we tend to these urges, as we might a demanding child we want to quieten, satisfying cravings and impulses flood our brain with dopamine. That release of happy chemicals in the brain helps us feel better in the short term.
But it does nothing to improve our quality of life.
That, too, is true.
Serious question: did the rainbow that was so vibrant in our very young minds ever progress from colourful lines drawn on a piece of paper to a reality in our hearts?
Bottom line: whether our parents and teachers hailed us as their ‘trophy child’, their ‘challenge’ or ‘burden’ or in anywhere in between, it is from our perceptions of their perceptions of us that, unconsciously, we engineered the coping mechanism we have long ago accepted as our persona-lity.
Out of our ego-persona our ego-mind was cast.
The repetitive, unsolicited mind-chatter released on a loop began streaming one audio chapter at a time – until all audios got mashed together.
That quasi-constant, invasive ‘noise’ prompts us into reactive mode.
When we were young, we all yearned to be found ‘right’, gorgeous, valuable, interesting and respected.
As we don’t yearn for what we have, that yearning stemmed from a settled-in sense of lack and insecurity.
As children, we simply wanted to please and feel loved in return.
We wanted everyone to laugh with us and no one to laugh at us.
We just wanted to be happy.
We just wanted to feel safe.
When these feelings didn’t quite materialise according to plan, we turned to specific thoughts, pursuits and persons that made us feel good – or at least better – for a while.
Until they no longer fit us or us them.
If, for reasons we can no longer fathom, our inability to problem-solve became an impulse we indulged as children, today, that habit has most probably impacted our home life and our work, too.
As have done all our habits.
As do those of all who are closest to us and furthest from us.
Interconnected, we all are.
But mostly disconnected and fragmented, we stand.
Reality check: each one of us feels alone on their raft—alone battling against the ‘elements. Bounced by waves and winds of varying magnitudes, we feel helpless. Yet, the rudder is in our hand.
The aim is to minimise the effects of the waves ahead.
If only we can make ourselves focus only on the water a half raft length or so in front of the bow, we sense how to best steer our little vessel through the sweet spot.
We could take control of the rudder, but more often than not, we don’t.
Instead, we surrender our autonomy to our mind.
The damning but most natural thing that has happened to us is that we internalised many of these people’s perceptions and behaviours towards us.
We made them self-defining.
We applied them to ourselves.
‘This is who I am’, we said. ‘This is what I do. This is how I feel.’
We still do that.
At times, we even add a sharp, ‘Take it or leave it!’
With our brain wired as it is to return us to familiar patterns, convinced as it is that what is familiar is by definition safe, no matter how dysfunctional, we compared ourselves to those we perceived as having it all – those who seemed to have what we yearned for.
We tried to compensate, too.
And we still do.
Some of us sought diversionary pursuits.
Some sought solace in alcohol or drugs, or sex.
Some lost themselves in all three.
Some sought the salvation of the body via the salvation of the soul.
Some sought inspiration through role models, such as high achievers, celebrities, sports stars and so on.
But all these ‘compensations’ are ephemeral because the real work has to come from within.
From our core.
Not from our impulses.
Not from reactive pursuits.
Bottom line: diversion became temporary distractions; addictive substances and personalities destroyed rather than healed; religion, faith and various ‘isms’ have no potency unless the self within is holistically sound.
Reality check: so many decades later, most of us still compare ourselves to those high achievers we know within our clan and to those we hear about on campus, on TV, on social media or in our workplace and teams.
We still compare ourselves to celebrities.
Unless we can perceive them as active, encouraging, purposeful mentors, a focus on the superficial aspects of otherwise unknown role models still only accentuates our inner lack.
We try to imitate – but emulating their achievement, their appearance, their voice, their moves only gets us so far.
We forget that it is not our brainpower that should define us.
Not anymore than we should imagine that the shape of our breasts, the firmness or ampleness of our booty, the groomed ruggedness of our beard, our abs, our pectorals or of our legs define ‘us’ in one way or another.
Be they natural or enhanced, ‘we’ are not these features.
They are not us.
As beings of light intended to ace the experience of being incarnated in a 3-D body, we are immensely more exciting and relevant than the sum total of our body parts, choice of clothes and achievements.
Yet, we make ourselves up.
Millennia before the Covid pandemic (and probably for several decades afterward) we ‘masked’ up.
We paint our faces with ever more subtle and ever more ubiquitous palettes of textures and colours.
Now as always, we posture.
Boys and girls, men or women, even in the absence of makeup or cloth over our face, we hide behind a mask.
When we can, we camouflage the parts of our body we feel are letting us down.
When we can’t, we camouflage our entire being.
Argh, dear Reader, the feminist in me wants to throw in the two cents worth rant.
Hoping it’s a short one, I’ll humour her. 😉
Century in/century out, decade in/decade out, fashion crafters are still happy to keep the bodies of boys and men modestly covered. The enduring focus is on shaping their hair and their beards. Fashionable hair length has been known to vary.
Currently, haircuts reminiscent of that of the ‘manly’ men of the ’40s, bushranger beards and tattoo sleeves worthy of the most hardened sea-farers of bygone centuries help many desk-bound city boys and men appear manlier than they genuinely are.
Serious question: why is it that women find this fake manliness so appealing?
Girl or woman, we shape our hair. Long hair has always been in fashion but, these days, hair that used to be considered long is hardly ‘long’ enough. And, OMG, girls and women still style their long hair – curled or straightened as they did in the 1890s using curling irons.
It’s no secret. Boys and men have always had a thing for human ‘female’ breasts. There have been times in bygone eras BCE when girls and women were forced to display their breasts, but from the 1800s onwards, they have embraced the practice as a necessity.
Still today, most girls and women are more than eager to plump up and display their breasts. When they don’t, they risk being teased or bullied by other girls – by women, by boys or men, too.
Another fantasy wired deep in Man’s psyche is about Woman’s buttocks.
In the 1800s, the fashionistas of the era gave hourglass corset to the male gaze.
Then, it was the soft curve bustle dresses.
Later, it was back drapery that gave skirts a below-the-waist bouffant appearance.
And, now that the fashion masters have dared to further attend to the fantasy, the female butt, sculpted, plumped up or lifted, is displayed like never before.
Regardless of its size, the bigger the better, it seems, the modern butt is encased in ‘urban wear’ yoga pants and shaping slim jeans.
Did ‘ancient’ women mind the idea that their backsides had to appear magnified to be attractive? Hard to tell.
Do ‘modern’ women mind, now, the ongoing focus on their booty? For throngs and throngs of them worldwide, it doesn’t appear so.
Bottom line: for all their modernity, despite being repelled by the enduring possibility of being objectified, girls and women are strangely old-fashioned in their need to please the male eye.
And there are eyes a’ plenty.
And it’s no secret: where the eye goes, so goes the mind.
There! Done! End of rant.
Reality check: though so many of us of all genders agonise over our appearance, we seldom think about tweaking the parts of our mind, those thoughts that are holding us back – those that are letting us down – those that are making us miserable.
Back in our youth, doing our best to emulate anyone’s achievement, appearance, moves, and manners only got us so far.
We were not them.
We were still ‘only’ our selves – still lacking so much.
If only in our mind.
Here’s a thought: love is a blurry thing.
Another damning thing is that, as a collective of 7 billion +, few have ever worked out a clear, confusion-proof, universal understanding of what Love means – or is.
We don’t have an across-the-board definition of what Love sounds like and feels like and looks like.
As the grown-up children that we are and even earlier as teens, we probably did ‘things’, said ‘things, ‘felt ‘things’ that did not feel ‘loving’ to our partners-in-life or to our own parents.
To our siblings.
To our children.
To our relatives.
To our friends, too.
And … to ourselves.
As we grew up and moved away from home, we continued comparing ourselves and our performance with our peers. We also compared ourselves to some higher up the food chain. And, no matter how acceptable our performance, we often found ourselves deficient in one area or another.
Sometimes in several.
Much of that immature feeling of vulnerability and the fear of being found out as ‘less than’ have stuck to our persona.
They got stuck inside our nervous system.
So many decades later, we are still stuck with them inside our mind.
And with every passing year, our little raft drifts further and further away from ‘our’ rainbow of hope for a more satisfying life.
From the life we yearn to live, coherently and peacefully.
Reality check #1: chances are that if, because of reasons related to the C-19 pandemic, we had to return to live with our parents or grandparents, most of our childhood emotions would be greatly exacerbated.
Reality check #2: no one can succeed in the field of contentment if we only focus on our own kudos, on our popularity and material prosperity.
Not even our parents.
Bursts of euphoric exhalations are one thing, and they are, as we know, short-lived.
Bottom line: beginning with the wellbeing of all those who have been karmically placed within our wider family ‘clan’, no level of contentment can be sustained from endeavours that do not take into account the wellbeing of others.
As we grew up, we sometimes said ‘things’ and doing ‘things’ that were uncaring towards our colleagues.
Our friends and strangers, too, near and far, would have had cause to think of us, of you and me, dear Reader, as ‘uncaring’ persons.
And probably, at one time or another, our own loved ones felt that as well.
They might still do.
Serious question: should they have concluded that frankly, we did not love or have any affection for them, they would have been wrong.
Serious answer: it all depends on one’s definition of … love.
Carole Claude Saint-Clair©2021