Friday, November 30, 2012

Because it matters

When I was crossing the street on my way out to grab a bite two nights ago I noticed a larger than life animatronic Santa Claus on the 3rd floor balcony in the building on the other side. It danced and sang Carols very loudly, it turned on and off randomly with nothing in particular triggering its preprogrammed behavior. As I was looking up, the angle, the reflected light and shadow gave it a particularly spooky quality. I quickly determined it's the creepiest thing I've seen in a while. And then I remembered how afraid I was of a stuffed Maya the Bee mascot that was hanging in a window of one of the stores in Warsaw. My mother can tell you the story. I didn't even have to see it. When I knew we were coming close to it I'd get all tense and hysteric. I could not explain what it was about the giant mascot that terrified me. I loved the German novel about her adventures  as well as the Japanese nighttime cartoon based on it. And it got me thinking about what Andrew Sutton wrote about his blog in a point about upbringing. How what parents do or not do may have lasting effect. And I think it's a true point. I never gave it much of a thought honestly, until I've forced myself to revisit my childhood to   remember as many experiences from the Peto Institute as possible.  It became obvious how a lot of what and who I am today is triggered by something that happened to me in the past. It's hard to distance yourself from things still present in your mind. Your fears and joys, triggers and phobias grow along with you, although objectively they might not impress a grown man like me today. I don't have a fear of plush toys or clowns, but I do have a fear of water. I remember fighting for air and going under as my dad tough me to swim. It went beyond  exercise, splashing around, practicing balance or therapy. My dad wanted me to swim, like other kids my age. For years after the fact going in a swimming pool for me meant tension that had me frozen with panic. A few years ago while visiting my family in  Warsaw, I've considered having a surgery on both of my knees. We went to the same traumatizing hospital that I remembered from when I was six. I thought it would not be a big deal. I'm bigger, stronger, I'm an adult. I can put my past in the past and just let things be. Yet, as I as there, not so much the memories, but the feeling of being powerless, trapped, lost and lonely returned. As I was getting examined I felt six again. That's when I realized that we never become different people over night. Just because I'm grown doesn't mean I'm someone else. That's why upbringing matters. Because it makes who we are. Some things we can change, grow out of or get over, but we are ourselves forever. We spend a lifetime in our bodies and more importantly with  our minds. Children don't come with instruction manuals do they? That why I write about my years of rehabilitation so often. My friends don't really understand, but it's not simply something that happened to me at one point and is now over. Once I read that past and future are only illusions. It seems to me that it may be true about human nature. There's only us. And I'm sure every parent  makes plenty of missteps. But are they really crucial? Do we scar that easily?  I'm sure we all have things our parents have done we blame them for at least to explain our own behavior. But then, if children and the human psyche were indeed as fragile as we think we would have never survived evolution.

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