As much as I need
The question was short and straight forward. The eyes were imploring and sincere. The depth of the need for satisfaction required a real answer. No trite and simple platitudes will suffice. The questioner was 4 and I was looking into the depth of heaven. If I was shallow with this query I would forever be regarded as “less” somehow. Of character that was both flawed and dismissive of the power inherent in the question and disrespectful of the one that asked. Trivializing the soul of the questioner and the merit of the question at the same time. Only by respecting that magnitude of enquiry with an authentic answer can you build a solid foundation for the future. Children have an innate awareness of the “realness” of the one that is talking to them. Disrespecting that has a cost.
It is a simple step for children to cross into the realm of fantasy. Fantasy is clear for kids and the boundaries can be defined and explained. The concepts of what constitutes fantasy and how you can tell a moral story with fantasy is easily understood. It can be scary and funny and whimsical and serious. Children get it.
Here is a split though. Serious is not full disclosure. There is a need for candor and respectful that is not the same as complete and full information. That the grandparent has passed away is different than telling all of the details. The child needs to know that Grandma is playing with her dog in heaven, but not that the reason she passed was due to a violent act by a criminal or that the care at the home was negligent and harmful. Later in life they can have more information. It matches the notion that you match the obligations with the capacity of the child. Meaning, as soon as the child can tie their own shoes you let them. Still, you can intervene in a moment of crisis to get out the door, but that is a rare item. It is the same as doing your child’s math instead of letting them struggle through it.
It is not unlike our own lives. The pursuit of a higher degree from a university has a level of commitment similar to the tying of shoes for a child. Commitment, training, struggle, repetition and encouragement and failure are all part of the process. We may choose to engage, or we may simply get off of the bus at a stop that doesn’t require more but is fulfilling in other ways. This is the frothy thing called life. It is about growing and finding a place that you are both competent and balanced. Some have and will land farther than others. Some stop early due to their choices. Some have a limited awareness of opportunities that they are presented with.
We are each given a bit of the story of what is to come in life. Not all are given the same. Some more, and sooner, than others. Some in harsh terms, sooner than would be hoped. My own case includes the loss of my father when I was 9 months old. While that had its own story in my journey it is far different than the story of my mother as a widow at the age of 23 with 4 children. Hers was a story with a strong wind and driving rain. Called to become an adult with a limp sooner than she expected. Some parts of the story are better left discovered than foretold. It is the same with your story. Authentic is not the same as complete.
While the training is best when completed before the test, that is only an option not an obligation. Yours is simply your own story. While many are not called to walk the path which my own family has trod, and many have had much harsher a road, the result is the evidence of a trial confronted. Some, with an honest and voluntary acceptance of the storm’s damage. Some with a turn toward bitter stoicism or angry outbursts. Later, after a life of trial and hardness there may come an epiphany, but only after the story has been satisfied. It makes for many good books and movies, this “revenge for the betrayal” theme, it is seldom the type of friend you seek out for companionship.
In the movie “Forest Gump” the promo is about a guy that has many wild experiences and then gets rich on a shrimp boat. The truth under the ordinary viewing is that the movie is about the angry and unsolved hurts of his love. Jenny will not heal the wounds of her fathers’ betrayal of trust and bad treatment of her. She has a story that is not satisfied, even after Forest buys her childhood home and bulldozes the place, wiping it from the face of the earth. Not until she is dying and comes to grips with his unending patience and his gracious love for her son, is she content.
We are not dissimilar. Until there is complete submission there is not complete peace. It is why we don’t fear a repeat of German or Japanese militarism, they were completely subdued. It is found in our friends that yielded to the realities of their lives that they are at peace. It is only then that we are, as well. When we are distressed it shows that we are struggling against a foe that we cannot defeat. If we are vocal and boisterous about it then it is all the more the truth. When we are stable in an unstable situation it shows to others. The ability to be honest when asked is not the same as being forthcoming with complete disclosure. We can speak of the reasons without the details of the way we got there. It is a place that is reserved for the closest of friends, when the embers of the fire are all that remain. And so, that is the place of maturity. When the age of the companion is not an issue, but the depth of the relationship is. When I can speak of the path that I trod, and you can listen. When I can return the favor, and you will as well. When I can set aside the shield and the sword. In the company of a safe friend.
Full disclosure is not even required for one. It can be a journey of discovery when told in parts to several different ones that will listen, and the only common participant is you. Your discovery of a nuanced aspect is found while telling a part to one and a different part to another and then the glimpse of the red line that connects them is revealed. New somehow, at least to you. When I was in my late 30’s I finally realized that I had been in the strong and relentless pursuit of a adult male mentor. I was as Jenny, in that I was blind to the labors and challenges I was confronting. When I came to understand that I was attempting to fill an empty void with approval and recognition from men I deemed as respected and valued, I then realized that they were not going to satiate the need completely, and then I could stop seeking their approval. That I did what was needed to be done, and that the reward was found in its own doing, became a “self-awareness” that brought peace. I was an independent agent of my own being. Not dependent on another for value and recognition, I was then a free moral agent. Capable of learning and improving. Accepted, at and for, the place I was starting from. Here and now. Worthy of my own honest evaluation, and able to strive for some next place.
The need for a mentor is a curious thing. There is a self-improvement course that costs a large amount. The sales people have a curious task, that of telling you that you are not living up to your potential, so give us your money so we can help you. You need to admit that your skills and efforts have fallen short before you can get the help you need to achieve a new level. Tiger Woods, even at the peak of his game, scrapped his putting form and got a new coach and rebuilt his form. What level of internal conversation can bring that to life? The knowledge that you are capable and worthy of the effort. Sometimes it is called to you by a friend. Sometimes a stranger, knowing nothing about you. Sometimes it is your own internal voice that says “try”. In the face of all of those that would drag you back; “Try!”, “Fail greatly attempting”, “Reach!”.
You miss every pitch you don’t swing at. A maxim from my youth, it is still true. Unwilling to strike-out, but unwilling to swing, the count comes against you. Again. Perhaps it is a bat that is too heavy. Perhaps it is the taunting of the jock on the team, but you are left standing there. Getting humiliated is real. Lies. Told by shallow friends and those that don’t want you to succeed because it would embarrass them. You have heard these lies many times. Some you have told yourself, to yourself. This is the full disclosure you hold in. You speak of many things but reserve this one. You don’t tell the entire story to the one that enquires. It is a special person that can see through the sham and ask the hard question without malice. It is a role that is needed to be played. Perhaps for you, at this time. Perhaps from you to another, for you have walked, as they have, down this same path.
For the first time in many years, you are given the freedom to speak of the hidden things. Then will come the peace and the change of aspect that brings new life. Then is there a time for hope to bloom, in a valley long called the battlefield of your past days. The seeds are there. Waiting for the battle to cease, the rains to come. The smell of their flowers in the air will draw others. They will look upon your beauty and wonder where you have been. You will know, and you will know if they will listen. To the full story. The one that wants to be told. The smell of spring is in the air. Renewal is a fresh start. I will build a fire. I will listen, with eyes that speak of the same journey. It is ok to begin. Perhaps it is as much as I need.
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