Friend of three dozen years comes and stays for a month.  Thanks, Jimmy

About The Consequences of Pretending

I am reminded, frequently, of the permanent dilemmas so many faces in this life.  On one hand, it is said . . . “there are things that can never be changed.”  On the other hand, it could be said that “this is unacceptable.”  This urges us to think positively . . . after all, we teach our children “You can be anything you want to be.  You can do anything you set your mind to.”  As you mature you find this and many other teachings are a myth.

So what can be done about this ongoing internal war . . . and . . . keep your mindset inclined to the positive side.  I realize that personal difficulties are unavoidable and ubiquitous.  But, sometimes these pitfalls just suck all the hope out of life.  At best, it leaves many a victim living in the shadows.  All the while, our educational, social and political forums keep telling us that we are all created equal. Deep inside, I believe, most of us reject those themes, yet we continue to masquerade around in some quasi-equality mindset.

To move on to the next day with any peace, we are left to adjust our expectations or pretend we are content.  Pretend what . . . that we are okay with this prevailing trauma?  Our emotional core just wants some peace . . . not so much of this equality thing.

 I have found (for myself) that pretending is really hard work. While some hurting individuals do a better job of adjusting to their situation, others are unable to heal for whatever combination of reasons.  I practiced the art of pretending for over seven decades and I was never good at it.  I have watched folks (I know) that had been hurt deeply, but their outward persona did not reveal the hurt that I expected to see.  Sometimes we all carry on life in what I have come to refer to as “performance mode.”

I suppose we have all learned to perform a role for one reason or another.  We start learning this as children.  I remember playing cowboys and Indians, as a child.  In my day, children played firemen, policemen, doctors or other professionals, due to the influence of television and movies.  As I think about it, that is probably where I began to develop my performance mode.  In my childhood days, we had limited heroes and few props to pretend with, as opposed to today’s settings.  So, are we really created equal?  I don’t think so but we still act and play the game as though it were so.

Finally, school days arrive with formal and informal education presented.  My goodness did my performance acting ever intensify when faced with the formal, informal and social aspects of school days?  By junior high school, I was beginning to perfect my “I am cool” image.  Some of us had to put a LOT more into our act since we were not created equal.  This brings up that age old question, why do some folks come out of the womb beautiful and more polished than others?  That, I do not know, it is just the way things turn out.

Inherent in the human spirit is the need to explain things that we don’t understand.  This need may manifest itself by explaining ourselves or someone we know (as if we really could know ourselves, let alone another person.”)  It is a typical reaction a survivor of suicide seem driven to explain the unexplainable.  I felt obligated to, for sure.  It is just one aspect of the "why question."

Scattered throughout the sequence of growing up are all sorts of good and “not so” good experiences.  Unfortunately, it is during these growing up years when neglect and abuse can begin.  They quickly erode one's self-esteem.

Beyond the mechanics of the classroom, our teachers and other role models can either inspire us or in some cases produce what appears to be irreparable damage.  We tend to get caught up in scandals like the Penn State and Vanderbilt situations.  In reality, similar things sometimes happen within families, even those deemed reputable families.  These issues seldom come to light, at least not initially.  families are champions of keeping secrets.

I was a fortunate kid to have role models who inspired me.  None of them were famous and if I shared their names, you would have never heard of them.  They were only “famous” in my eyes.  I had admirable parents, grandparents, other relatives and teachers in school and church and none would be considered “near perfect.”  Unfortunately for some, that irreparable damage could not have been addressed in an effective way as it should have.  That is not necessarily by intent as much as the embarrassment and not knowing what to do.  These situations often surface later in life, after years of stress.  This is one of the significant contributors of depression.

Sometimes the damage was intentional and other times just collateral. The issue of shame keeps secret things under wraps.  This leaves the victim painted in a corner.  This “in the corner thing” can last for decades as we witnessed in the Penn State situation. 

SAD situation, in that the victim endures a lifetime of suffering.  Worse than that occurs, when the news surfaces and the shock effect takes over  Afterward, those aware or made aware are not only ill prepared they have no practical skills to help.  Yet, this does not diminish the fact that help was needed.  As a result, reactions are misguided and tragic errors made.  I know I did for sure.

Not knowing is only superseded by not realizing you don’t know.  What a terrible way to learn.  Yet in all this, there is “always hope.”  Hope that we will find someone to share with, care with, help us heal and encourage us to get up and Keep On, Keeping On.