Children

James and his mom.

I’m reading Joan Didion’s new book Blue Nights right now.  In it she examines her thoughts, fears and doubts about having children, illness and growing old.  Didion lost her only child, her daughter Quintana, in 2005.  In her book The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion addressed the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne.  That book was published only months before her daughter passed away at 39 years old. In The Year of Magical Thinking she talks about her daughter who was in the hospital, very ill, on the night Joan’s husband died from heart failure.  I remember the lump in my throat when I read that Joan had to break the terrible news to Quintana more than once that her father had died.  She was slipping in and out of a coma and when she awoke she wanted to know where her father was.  She was devastated by the news of course, but then would slip back out of consciousness and not remember any of it when she awoke the next time, so poor Joan had to explain it all to her again…and again.

When I finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking I so hoped that her daughter would recover and mother and daughter could be there for each other to lean on and for support.  So, when I was finished reading the book, I Googled “Quintana Roo Dunne” and there it was.  Real life doesn’t always offer a happy ending and sometimes it kicks you hard when you’re down.

I’m still reading Blue Nights and so far it has really got me thinking about my own son, James, and also my step children and their relationship with their father.

I want to share some lines from Blue Nights that really struck a chord with me:

When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them.
The ways in which our investments in each other remain too freighted ever to see the other clear.
The ways in which neither we nor they can bear to contemplate the death or the illness or even the aging of the other.
As the pages progressed it occurred to me that their actual subject was not children after all, at least not children per se, at least not children qua children; their actual subject was this refusal even to engage in such contemplation, this failure to confront the certainties of aging, illness, death.
This fear.
Only as the pages progressed further did I understand that the two subjects were the same.
When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.
Once she was born I was never not afraid.
I was afraid of swimming pools, high tension wires, lye under the sink, aspirin in the medicine cabinet.  I was afraid of rattlesnakes, riptides, landslides, strangers who appeared at the door, unexplained fevers, elevators without operators and empty hotel corridors.  The source of fear was obvious: it was harm that could come to her.  A question: if we and our children could in fact see the other clear would the fear go away? Would the fear go away for both of us, or would the fear go away only for me?

Every time I read those lines I cry. I’m not sure why, but I do.  I think it may be the truth in them.  The truth that we cannot see the other clear and that we remain so unknown to each other.  I am also a daughter and know from that perspective that this is true.  And the fear.  The fear never goes away. I guess I cry too because when my own son was small I knew him so well…but that time was fleeting and has long since passed by.  My husband feels the same way about all of his children.

You are joy, looking for a way to express.  It’s not just that your purpose is joy; it is that you are joy. You are love and joy and freedom and clarity expressing. Energy—frolicking and eager—that’s who you are. – Abraham

That’s how we remember our children – when they were small; that’s who they really were and indeed still are deep down, in fact that is who we all are …deep inside.  Fear pushes it back and then we forget entirely who we truly are anymore. I feel the loss of those early days and I suppose that is also what makes me cry when I read those perfect lines written by Joan Didion.

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Conditioning & Learned Behaviour~

TracyA learned behavior is a behavior that was observed by an individual that they find to be beneficial to them in some way.  We have all been taught these learned behaviors by our parents, teachers, pastors, councillors or anyone of any influence in our lives.  There’s a motivating factor behind it.  A reward perhaps.  The learned behavior is a conditioned response to a stimuli through either voluntary or involuntary intent.  It is some type of action or reflex that you learn. For example tying your shoes, tantrums and interrupting a conversation is a learned behavior.  Innate behaviors on the other hand, such as babies sucking their thumbs or crying is something we are born with.

We have developed automatic response to different situations, sometimes reacting because of the way we are conditioned to react.  Not all learned behaviors are negative, but I do think we need to start trusting our own instinctual or innate behaviors a little more.

I think we need to shed some of our conditioning in order to live our most authentic lives.

We are conditioned to get married at a certain age.  Not everyone wants to, or should get married.  In many countries marriage is still arranged.  I think it’s hard finding a partner you could spend the rest of your life with, imagine for a moment your parents picking who you will be with FOREVER!   Maybe marriage is not meant to last forever.  We are also conditioned to believe the end of a marriage is a failure, when in fact it can be the best decision for both people.   I admire those who don’t conform to what society makes them believe is their path because of a preconceived timeline.

Although procreation is an innate behaviour, it doesn’t mean we have to.  We are conditioned to believe we are meant to have children after marriage.  It is the question every newly married couple gets asked days after they exchanged vows.  If we can accept the marriage without the child, then we should be able to accept the child without the marriage.  Women are often frowned upon when they consider having a child out of wedlock.  We are conditioned to believe you need two parents and although I do think it is much easier and more balanced for the children, it’s not necessarily the norm anymore.  Not all couples want children and go through a huge struggle to explain why they choose not to.  Just as some women/men choose not to marry.  I think those who choose what is best for them see through learned behavior and are living truthfully.  When you love someone “unconditionally” it means without conditions.  There is nothing better or more pure.

Age also has conditions we need to shed.  I don’t even ask how old someone is because I think age should not be a measuring stick or way of slotting someone.  Kelsey was the first to teach me that lesson, she was way beyond her years when she was 8 years old.  Age doesn’t no matter.  I have a lot to learn from much younger wiser souls while I am here on earth.  I am open to all they have to teach me.  Older doesn’t always mean wiser, as we are conditioned to believe.  It all really depends on the individuals life experience.

Kids don’t even need to leave the comfort of their own homes to learn their behaviors.  Television is full of them.  Pretty scary when as an adult you are completely aware of what’s out there.  Don’t get me wrong there are lots of great television shows out there that are a positive expression of life, you just have to look for them.  Kids are watching the drama portrayed in shows and what they get out of it is how they think they should react to a situation themselves.  They start to shut off their own instinct of what feels right and by doing this they become conditioned.  They have successfully learned their behavior.  They have tuned out their innate behaviours they were born with.

We need to shed our conditioning and start trusting our own instincts of how to react to situations that arise.  A positive, open mind and good moral fiber will help us make difficult choices in our path ahead.  Trust your instincts not your conditioning!  Follow your heart and keep a clean conscience and your on the right path to shedding some of the unnecessary conditioning we are all faced with each day.

Tracy signiture

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