The Way Life Feels…Sometimes.
Today’s photo pretty much describes my childhood. I kind of hit the ground running. I was a kid with big ideas, a huge personality and a lot of energy. I had places to be. People to see. Dogs and cats to pet. I was on my way…at like four.
When I saw this photo, it struck me deeply. Because I think that I felt much like the child in this photo feels. All the things that I wanted to do in my life were banned. Not available to me. There seemed to always be someone telling me no. Not here. Not now. Not ever. And so I was pissed at a young age. I began rebelling at, well, four. I didn’t want naps and my mom agreed because to give me twenty minutes, gave me another eight hours and she was having a hard time keeping up with me as it was. I didn’t want to eat certain things, so I didn’t. And long food wars were waged with my father and I sitting at the dinner table with my mom’s uneaten efforts stubbornly between us. I pretty much always won. I could wait him out. And because I was thin kid, they were always worried that making me eat whatever it was that I was refusing to eat was going to push me over some sort of anorexic edge. They were right to worry. I have had weird eating habits the whole of my life…
So I rebelled at the things that most four year olds do: bedtimes, food choices, how much supervision I needed, who and how much I could have friends over. If I look back, I remember there being a lot of battles. I felt like I had things that I wanted to do but at every turn there was a fucking sign banning exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t like it and I made hard terms for those around me who were trying to control me, or parent me.
I didn’t understand why I couldn’t bring home every stray dog, cat, gopher, rabbit, squirrel, bird I found. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t have fifty seven animals. And so they told me no, and I just kept bringing them home regardless. It was who I was. And to a large degree, who I still am.
I think life gets off to a hard start when you feel like everything you want to do is out of your reach. I wanted to be a kid but wanted to be treated as older and more capable always. And I kind of was more capable but my grandiosity always kind of fucked me in the end. What I was actually capable of and what I thought I was capable of never really matched.
I wanted to have fun. I wanted to play outside until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I wanted to run with older kids. I wanted four hundred dogs. I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Today, as a parent, I feel oh so much compassion for my parents. It must have been so hard to parent such a willful child. One who had ideas of her own at such a young age and was pretty relentless about ensuring that her wants were met and satisfied.
But the feeling that what I really wanted in life was out of reach or forbidden did not serve me all that well. I developed this idea that I had to hide what I really wanted from everyone lest some annoying parent, teacher, older kid or just the whole universe might conspire against me to ensure that I could not have that which I wanted. So I began this practice of pretending. Not telling the truth. Lying so that no one really knew what I wanted. I would make demands for two completely incongruent things at the same time so that I could better my odds at getting something met. “Fine we can’t go to Disneyland today, what about the beach then?” Suddenly the beach seemed so much easier when juxapositioned to Disneyland. So I got my way….probably more than one should at such a young age and it kicked off a need or hunger in me to ensure that I was satisfied all the time. Guess what? No one can be satisfied all the time!
So I entered life with this idea that there was always this higher authority fucking with your plans and banning everything good and fun that you wanted to do and then this manipulative plotting and conniving to not let anyone really know what I wanted so that I could better the odds at getting some close approximation to what I really wanted.
In summary, I got off to a bad start.
It has taken me a long time to get rid of the idea that the world doesn’t want me to have what I want. It has taken literal decades for me to see that what I want isn’t always what is best for me. That my way is not the only way, it is not the holy grail of right and good, that my way is only just a way in a stream of many, many ways. And that getting what I want is often not all that I think it is going to be.
Today, I believe that that sign posting God that forbade all that I want to do isn’t some itinerant Demigod who just sits around all day trying to fuck up my world. Today, I believe that each person, place or thing that comes into my life is here to teach me a lesson. To help me grow into the person I need to be, not for my own selfish pursuits, but for the greater good of all I encounter.
Today I also know that when the answer to the question feels like no, it could just be “not yet” or “not right now.” And I have learned, slowly and painfully, to just trust that I cannot manifest that which is not meant for me. And I will die trying. Letting things, people come and go is better. Allowing myself to just let it all go and see what remains is so much healthier for me. Trusting that I can never ever have what I want because the ask is endless but I have always been given what I need. And that is far more than many on this planet right now. I have a problem of abundance. Not a problem of scarcity like I always felt.
And if I could go back and talk to that little girl who is standing on the beach reading the sign that is fucking up her day, I would say to her this:
This is not your beach. Ride your bike a little further up the coast. There will be another beach that will welcome your bike and dog. There will be another beach that will welcome you to its coastal edge and invite you in for a swim. And if you can’t find it today, never stop looking. Life’s greatest gifts often come as mild inconveniences and sometimes great hardship. You get to choose how you handle these things. You can feel punished and pissed or you can just accept that which cannot be changed in that moment.
And sometimes, not all the time, dear one, just ride past the fucking sign and do what you want anyway. Throw your towel over the instructions and go anyway. But remember the consequences are always yours. You, and no one else, is responsible for your actions. So take the dog, take the bike and go for a swim but realize that perhaps, just maybe there is a good reason for the warning and it would serve you well to quell your own rebellion long enough to find out why the sign is there.
Life is not here to ruin all your plans. Life is here to teach you lessons. Sometimes painful, sometimes wonderful but always, always for your higher good. And knowing when to say “fuck the rules” and when to say “ok, I accept that” is really the fine art of living.
That is what I would tell her as we both ran madly for the shore, tossing our towels over the fucking sign banning all the fun.