Trauma

The carefree joy of young children is a beautiful sight to behold, one unmatched by most others and cherished by almost all. Yet lurking somewhere beneath that joy is a truth we choose not to acknowledge, for it is both too vile and too disheartening.

Upon hearing the word trauma, or reading it as you would have done as you began reading this post, one instantly forms images of grueling incidents leaving horrid impacts, mental as well as physical. However, the worst form of trauma, so abominable we tend to deny its very existence, is carried out in our own homes, on what is most unfortunately a daily basis.

This trauma doesn’t stem from gross physical abuse or senseless mental torture, though the picture painted is quite the model for what this post is all about, it evolves instead from everyday occurrences, incidents so trivial they ought not to even be labelled “incidents”.

It is not always that I sit upon my desk and decide that I wish to write about tortures faced by children. Today I had come to my computer, or pen for the dramatic effect, with the intent of writing about the incomparable importance of chocolate but could think of nothing else as I spoke to a friend of mine except for the kind of mental torture the poor dear must be facing.

It has been said often enough, perhaps too many times already so my saying it again shouldn’t make much of a difference, that children are like soft clay which hasn’t yet been moulded into a definite shape; essentially mud but we like to treat them better. Clay, if you care deep enough to find out, is impossibly difficult to work with: it flows and runs and cracks when setting and bakes too quickly to be of any use.

Thus, evidently, clay requires careful handling and the potters, friends and family, have unto them the great responsibility of shaping us and our futures. Yet in shaping that future of their children, these parents lay aside the present circumstance of the “present” wet clay. In their mad driven rush to have their child sell for the maximum value at the shop, the completely look over the delicate process of pottery.

From the day that the little ones learn their first words, they are subjected to this cruel torture. Constant comparisons with other, apparently factory made, children, constant nagging, constant shouts of disappointment, constant unrealistic expectations, the works. Children get over this, rather, they accept it as a norm and learn to live with it somehow, and hence there is nothing to get over.

My aim is not to antagonize parents or relatives, they give us life and help us preserve it therefore antagonizing them would be grossly unjust, but only to show that there are things which children go through which don’t seem worth fussing over but in fact are. They don’t leave very visible marks upon the “victims” of these incidents but they leave a very deep psychological impact which harms the mind in the long run.

Does this mean that all stern words spoken to children should be arrested? Of course not; that would be unfeasible to the point of being absurd. This post is not aimed at delivering a message at all actually. This post is only intended to show that when the “culprits” use the merciless weapon that is the tongue upon unsuspecting children, then the children are affected.

I have been perhaps more fortunate than many others, in that whereas I may have had more than my fair share of nagging, I have had a decent amount of care and concern to negate it. Others endure much tougher, and yet others, like the friend I spoke of earlier, endure far less, but they endure nonetheless.

The habit I have of storing advice which I spoke of a few days ago merits me here as well. These words came from the mouth of my fifth grade class teacher, and it is she I credit, I don’t like to use the word blame, for my turning out the way I am today. She said: “I encourage you to take people’s criticism well, so that you can learn from them and subsequently take away from them the opportunity to criticise. But before you do that, you have to see whether it is criticism or simply a comment which you ought to ignore”.

I have tried to follow that little piece of wisdom all my life. Whenever someone chucked a condescending comment my way I tried to take it at its best, and found that mostly I could learn something. Home was always a dodgy place for me, though, because whereas I could gather the comments and compliments of outsiders as thorny flowers, the jibes of family stung like cacti.

Time passes and we learn. We learn what it feels like to receive compliments and what it feels like to be reprimanded. We like the former and dislike the latter so we open up more to compliments. We take comments severely to heart for a moment and lose the pain in good faith moments later.

It’s not the heart that worries me; the heart is a fool which doesn’t know what to do unless it’s told. It’s the mind that keeps me awake at nights, for the mind knows all and it keeps all, and you never know when the mind may tire.

Misgivings

There is such a thing as too much joy and, perhaps, as too much sadness. Yet think as I may, I cannot fathom for a second such a thing as too much doubt, for whenever I think, and think I do often enough, I find myself wondering if I have enough qualms.

For in this world we are blessed with a thousand and one things to doubt, a thousand more to second guess and countless more to question. Many have come and gone and they have spoken with sound minds and sounder voices that doubt is a sin, that qualms spawn distrust, that misgivings are a curse. Many fewer have said, feebly or so, that without doubt we would be clueless, without qualms we would never progress, without misgivings we wouldn’t know how to live.

My mother used to say: “one day there will come a time when you will not be able to tell your head from your bum and half the world will tell you one way and half the other. When this happens, remember you mama and remember that she made the best curry in the world”. At that time, when I was about ten or ten and a few months old, this advice made perfect sense to me and yet now, when I am seventeen and a few months, I cannot recall what that sense was.

Nevertheless, I hold on to such pieces of advice, it is a habit that I have. I have misgivings as to whether it is a good habit, but my misgivings are the reason I never let go of this habit, and this habit is the reason I caught hold of misgivings in the first place.

I remember another piece of advice given to me by a boy two years younger to me and about a head shorter, though he is today a hair’s breadth taller than me and a shade fairer. Sweet boy that he was once, he still may be but I am not so sure, he innocently asked me whether humans had actually come from monkeys. I told him that we had and he asked me if I was sure, and I found that I was and I told him so. He asked me why I was sure and I said that it had been written in a hundred books and said by a hundred people.

Charles Darwin naturally came up and he asked me why did I not simply settle for his word and why did I go on to other writers and other evidence, to which I replied that I doubted the authenticity of the claim, of course I said it in much simpler terms and I was unaware of the gravity of my answer. Then he told me that if I had never doubted Charles Darwin I could have saved myself a lot of time, to which I replied that I would never have been sure of evolution.

“And now,” he said, “you don’t read about it any more because you know it all and you don’t doubt it. Now you will never be curious about it or be fascinated by it or want to know more about it because you are so sure. What fun is that?”

This may not have been advice as we know it but it showed me something wonderful, it showed me the value of not knowing for certain, of having qualms, of harbouring misgivings. It has always been my insurmountable desire to know things, all things about everything without leaving anything out of something. But there are times when I feel that I have learnt my fill, not because there is nothing more about it to know, for one thing leads onto another and there is always something associated with everything and so it is impossible to know everything about something, but because I feel as though the time has come for some doubts to be left regarding that particular subject.

The subject of my worst nightmare is not a demonic beast or a disastrous fall or the death of a family member, all of which are most disheartening, but it is the feeling that I shall one day sit at my window looking out at the steady drizzle of water and not have a thing to think about or write about or talk about because I am so absolute in my knowledge of everything. It is a nightmare which terrifies me to my core yet I do not wish to wake from it and when I do wake from it I feel a desperate need to go back to it because I wish to see what I do to overcome my predicament, before I realise that that is my predicament.

Unwitting creature that I am, I wish to know all but also to have doubts about all, both of which cannot exist together. But there are times when I am clear in my head, times when I know exactly what I want and what I don’t want. These are usually times when I want to be in doubt, which is ironic considering the statement: “I know that I want to be in doubt”.

It is raining now, now when I am writing this, and maybe that is making me write this, but I am glad that it is. I am glad that I am writing this down as opposed to letting it sit in some part of my mind where it will bother me for all eternity or, what is infinitely worse, vanish entirely. For if it did vanish then I would never remember it and, in some time to come, I would think nothing of this night and would lose the incalculable memories this night has given me.

But memories are common, memories are found with all, memories are eventually forgotten and when they are forgotten they are nothing, for what is a memory if it isn’t remembered. No, memories are not for me. You can keep your memories, keep them all, keep them for life; I have my misgivings.