"We cannot love ourselves unless we felt affirmed by the parent." James Hollis The Middle Passage, p 68.
No, I am not starting a diatribe against parents here. My parents raised three successful children who shared and carried out their mores and became responsible respectable members of the culture in which they live. All parents are only people who tackle a job that has been defined for them by a culture in which they are only bit players; most of them hope they are doing the right thing. As I said, this is post is not about parents.
But, if you have been reading any of my blogs for a while, it is no secret that I have been struggling with a lot of issues revolving around who I am and my place in the world. Whether fretting about what to wear, a representation of my place in the world, or what I really want as opposed to what I feel I should want, it has been a rocky couple of years. And truthfully, during much of this struggle, I have felt pretty stupid. I felt stupid because I didn't understand how I could do and become everything I was brought up to do and become, well almost everything, and still not know who I was or what I wanted. I felt stupid because I felt the yearnings of my 6 year old self, the idealism and anger of my 20 year old self, the magic and spiritualism of my pre-teen self, and I wondered if my adult self had anything to do with me, the actual me, or if it was all just an illusion of the self I thought I was supposed to be.
I don't particularly feel stupid anymore, and truthfully, finding Hollis's book has contributed greatly to that acceptance. I found the book on a lark. I knew nothing about the author. I really didn't know anything about the book. But the title appealed to me. I expected some frivolous self-help book. I was surprised. I have read the book twice now in the last month and feel I need to read it again. I can't really review the book at this point because every time I read something I start making connections and thinking about things in different ways. I am still in the middle of this whole process of discovery.
But back to that quote. It is not necessarily representative of the book. The book is not about blaming one's parents for all life's ills, quite the opposite, it is more about seeing one's way through the choices one has made, and the choices that have been made for one, accepting responsibility, and moving on. And yet the ease or difficulty with which one embarks on that path begins early, before one even has a choice.
The quote above struck me the other day when I read it because as I read that line that day I gave myself permission to forgive myself for loosing myself and for working on finding my way back. I felt like saying: "Well of course it took you this long". And with that statement came acceptance.
This line struck me because something else has been on my mind as well in this period of turmoil. In mid-July, soon after I began reading Hollis I made posted a comment on this post at La Belette Rouge about a dream I had throughout my childhood and at different stages of my adulthood. I called the dream my gluttony dream, and although I won't go into it here you can find it at the link above. My comment garnered the following answer from Belette:
"What is supposed to be nurturing has holes in it and instead of being a source of nurturing for you has started to eat you up. Is that how it feels? Did you have that kind of feeling as a child?"
In reading that comment I suddenly looked at the gluttony dream differently. Oh it was still about gluttony, but it had a broader context, which well may be true of all dreams. And I realized that this feeling that nurturing had holes and was eating me up characterized much of my childhood from an early age. And of course this feeling has occasionally consumed me lately as well. It is no one's fault in particular that the child I was felt she was being consumed in the process of trying to be the child she felt the world expected her to be. It was no one's fault that the adolescent I was felt that there was the true me and the me I presented to the world. All adolescents feel this way to some extent or another, and probably all children feel consumed during some stage of the passage from childhood to adulthood. Why it plagued me so much I may never know.
I don't know that the six year old girl who first had that dream knew anything about being consumed by nurturing. But that night is permanently imprinted on my memory and I know that that little girl knew that she had to chose between who she was and what was necessary to be a part of that laughing family on the other side of the wall. I only know that that little girl who sat in the dark and cried that night needs to come out now. That girl cannot escape the woman she has come to be, that woman cannot escape the world in which she came to live, but she must also embrace the girl she was. It is nice to come home again I think, although sometimes the passage is rough.