From the moment of our first breath after birth, Life is a journey of unfolding series of events. Each of these events has the potential to be a life lesson. When we are infants we learn that crying invokes a response from the adults in our world. Best case scenario is that our cries are meet with love, compassion and the meeting of our needs, whether that is for nourishment, attention or the changing of our soiled diapers. We each learn that we can influence others. Initially our goal is not to make others do our bidding but to simply have our needs meet. As we grow and explore our worlds we become aware of how certain things we do have specific effects on specific individuals. The right smile at the right person at the right time might meet not only our basic human needs for love and attention, but we learn about secondary needs and how we can encourage others to meet some of our wants as well, like a fun game of peek a boo.
Children learn what they live. Each person we come in contact with in essence becomes a teacher. Each of us have unique relationships with the people in our worlds, some can be loving, supportive and happy. Still others can be confusing, inconsistent and create anxiety. Various parenting styles, your position in the family and different bonds that are formed change how each child sees their world and their place in it. A child who looks for support and nurturing in healthy ways and receives it will learn to duplicate their behavior with others in efforts to gain support and love in the same fashion; these responses or payoffs are hopefully beneficial for everyone. A child who doesn’t receive acknowledgement in one way will try others to get their needs meet. Sometimes these approaches can be destructive to the child, their environment or others without the intent to create conflict, but because they are just trying to invoke a response or payoff. These can become harmful to the child’s self-image and their view of other people, as well as others perspectives of them.
So this is how the life lesson cycle begins. As we travel through our lives some lessons are learned easily and results are fairly consistent and we develop a pattern of getting our needs and wants meet. Other lessons are confusing and can become painful when the chosen behaviors we use are met with inconsistent responses, apathy or negative emotional responses. Our goals fail and we are left to go without that need being meet or we try other new methods to get what we want or need.
Each of our teachers is part of our learning process on our life journey. Some teachers have more impact than others. Our parents are our primary and most influential teachers. The relationship each of us develops with our parents has a direct impact on how we progress thought life. Healthy connections with healthy parent creates a strong foundation and helps a child see life as happy adventure, similarly unhealthy parenting creates a pattern of dysfunctional learning styles. Over time these choices become deeply entrenched habits and destructive patterns. These reactive behaviors set the stage for a lifetime of frustration and self-esteem issues. We learn to see ourselves through these relationships and tend to replicate similar situations as we venture out into the world.
Many people seek consistency and familiarity to help ourselves feel safe, even if that is unhealthy, and they stay stuck in a cyclical pattern. Still there are other personality types who resist or challenge the status quo and they venture into uncharted territories hoping to find the love and acceptance they seek. Then there are a minority of others who seem to have a strong sense of self who have faith in themselves and they develop healthy connections alth with individuals who do respond to them in a positive way and walk away from those relationships that are fulfilling or unhealthy.
I am reminded of a game we used to play in our above ground pool we had when I was a child. We would all start to walk in the same direction around the outside of the pool, creating a current in the direction we were going. When the current became strong enough some of us would stop walking, raise our legs and go with the flow, floating effortlessly on the wave we created. There was always that one person who enjoyed making the current and they would continue to walk or run around the pool, the person who enjoyed stirring the pool, then there was me. I would turn and try to walk into the current, forcing myself against the wave, testing my strength and ability to stay up before I would get swept away in the turbulence. I enjoyed the challenge and the struggle of going against the current.
It was just a fun game but it also indicated my preference for doing things the hard way. Instead of merely accepting the external forces of the water and letting go and going with the flow, I would continue to stand up to those things meant to move me along in a predetermined direction. I don’t think I realized at that age that I was choosing the more difficult path in life, I just wanted the challenge. I wanted to decide for myself what way I would go regardless of the external locusts of control. I don’t remember thinking my way was the best solution, I just wanted to test my limits and those around me. Instead of seeking to conform, I needed to explore life and my potential to overcome the rules that governed the rest of society. I chose the path untaken by the majority.
Life provides us with many teachers throughout our lives. First are our parent, siblings and extended family and friends. Then we go off to school where we are exposed to formal lessons given by trained teachers. Society also has teachers’ who help us learn to fit into other social groups, like religious, political and special interests. Media and our peer groups are also our teachers on the journey through life. Each social group has their rules and what they view as right or wrong. For acceptance and the desire to belong most people accept what they are told and become part of the group, they chose the path of least resistance. They lift their feet and go with the current, enjoying the freedom that comes from moving effortlessly with the flow. They do not question or challenge what they have been told is right and wrong, they chose to conform and belong as part of a whole.
I believe there is no right or wrong, no completely black or white, but that all things are a bit of both, all things are a shade of grey. What is best for one person at one time may not be the best for another under different circumstances. I think we each need to decide what we believe each day. If we let go of the idea that there is only one way to do something we open the door to opportunities and options. I guess I was born a rebel whose cause was to explore life regardless of how difficult it may be. There have been many days in my past and I am sure there will be days in my future where I wish I was better at going with the social flow and not challenging the powerful social undercurrent. I do long to belong and be loved and accepted as part of a greater whole. Life certainly seems to be much easier for those who have large supportive communities that reinforce and encourage them to be one of them. Perhaps as I age and grow too tired to fight the flow I will decide to let go and ride the wave, but for today I will continue to walk into the wave and allow life’s lessons to teach me outside the norm.
Written in memory of my mentor, Deborah Hart. I was lucky enough to have had you come into my life when I was desperately trying to fit in and go with the flow. Thank you for encouraging me to continue to stand up against the waves and be myself. I truly miss your unwavering love and support since you have gone on to your journey to the other side of deaths’ curtain. In closing, I leave you with a song that reminds me of Deb, by P!NK, “Wild Hearts can’t be Broken”. I hope to follow in your footsteps and continue to fight for the truth to be told.
Wild Hearts Can't be Broken Lyrics
I will have to die for this I fear
There's rage and terror and there's sickness here
I fight because I have to
I fight for us to know the truth
There's not enough rope to tie me down
There's not enough tape to shut this mouth
The stones you throw can make me bleed
But I won't stop until we're free
Wild hearts can't be broken
No, wild hearts can't be broken