It’s wearying. Jumping through the hoops others throw in your path, the bullshit and tricks that people’s egos play on one another, even on themselves. Funny. Little children rarely play such games. Whether you consider such frankness cruel, shocking or wonderful, their feelings and thoughts are worn out in the open, on their faces, by their actions and their complete surrender to whatever emotion is sweeping through their hearts at any given time. When they are angry they don’t hide it, their volume rises with their color and when you have made them happy they beam at you or throw their arms around you in a fierce hug.
But I am a big girl now, though I might act like a child at times (and, to be honest, I usually consider that a compliment). I live in a world of adults with responsibilities, goals and reactions. Whereas children’s emotions and actions are a direct response to what they feel in the moment and are allowed expression at will, without editing, we adults have learned to edit and, worst of all, to use that ability to edit to a goal oriented ends. What do I mean? Picture someone bruising your feelings, if you were a child, you would begin to cry or get angry and lash out or revoke friendship (which is the worst of all). As adults we often have the self restraint to process the hurt, but in that processing we take into account a laundry list of factors before acting: who said it, how we want them to feel in return, who has the greater power in the relationship, what we need or want from this person, how to exact revenge, our delicate reputations and so on. And in doing so, we take ourselves farther from being aware of our own feelings. To sit with your raw emotions and allow yourself to look directly at what happened and what that meant to you is precious. It’s that freedom and courage to stop everything and focus on how an event has effected you internally that helps us know ourselves. We edit our internal responses before we have had a chance to even feel them for ourselves because we spend so much of our energy assessing the actions and reactions of others. It’s then that we begin answering the question, “How do you feel?” with rote lines that allow us to remain adults in good standing. We lose connection with a part of ourselves. That is not to say self restraint can’t be used wisely, of course. There are those who utilize that skill to gain themselves time to observe their own inside reaction and then have the courage to speak their piece honestly and calmly. I have an enormous amount of respect for those who have truly become adult enough to be that respectful to both others and themselves.
But the social survival skill of editing is not the only warped lens to communicating our reality to the other people in our lives or to us perceiving theirs. There is also the dirtied vision of perceiving actions and events through the coating of past experiences. Our scars, old war wounds and former ecstasies all shape how we discern the actions of others. And, much like looking through a tarnished pair of glasses, we may not see the world as clearly as we should, that certain objects appear discolored or may not even be visible to us at all with so much built up dirt clouding our sight. When a person has been tricked many times in the past, perhaps trust is difficult to find. To another whose life has been filled with supportive, present people, they may judge that person as cold or paranoid, just as that person labels them, naive or phony. And so perhaps, the bullshit and tricks that we play on ourselves can’t help but mean that we all end up jumping through hoops.
And jumping through hoops makes me weary. Good night.
* Much to our delight, children’s mistakes of judgement are due less to the warped vision of too much experience and more to do with the sublimely naive lack thereof. That’s why they make us smile.