The reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality • Gary Zukav
I like the graphic content better on this one…Perception colors what we think, how we think, why we think. Everything that came before and everything that still comes all gets channeled through a tiny locality of perception.
My mother introduced me to the theatrical arts. Everything I do now unwittingly started with her, a very very long time ago. A few people here and there have added their strokes, colors, shadings, even the sandpapers, and acids. Three, especially, were catalysts for inspiration. One set my path, another set my future, and still, another set my compass.
In the beginning, it was a string of little gifts- Danny Kaye, the soundtrack to Space Oddessey 2001, Tchaikovsky. I never told her I found Prokofiev. She tried so hard with me, against all the stupidities around us, and when even she thought she’d given up on me and all my sullen rejections, still never failed to keep gifting me with insight via the playwrights and storytellers, the music makers, and those who spent their lives in that service. But, like any robot, all I could do was collect and compile the data, and then stall out in a stack overflow. For a long time, I couldn’t understand the whats or whys to her attempts.
Skip many years. Light bulbs came on. Stagnant data started processing. The whats and whys became apparent. I know now those attempts were pieces of her own soul sloughing off as she very slowly gave up her will to keep fighting, but was it too late? I was a special repository, an ark of particular ideas and dreams she didn’t seem to share with anyone else. Why? I was quietly fed a very different diet from the other kids, rich with culture and aesthetics, but in such a way that I’m not sure anyone else knew what was going on.
Watching a child grow up a chasm away must have been so difficult. My head and everything in it was so alien to her, and I so effortlessly spent my life dismissing her as unimportant, immaterial, unneeded. I never missed her until I got grown up and had a child, never thought of what she must have thought or felt until she was nearly gone. In our entire lives, we never once had a meaningful conversation as far as I was concerned, although her anguish over my soul was apparent.
I’m not a bad person. I’m a terrible person. Bad people have misdirected motives. Terrible people have altogether different agendas. Bad people repent or at least play along until they get what they want. Terrible people hang around and do the right thing, knowing that just being there inflicts pain, but ignoring it. Bad people at least lie. Terrible people don’t.
How we see things, how we see each other, how we feel about what we see in our tiny localities all goes through a filter called a brain. My filter works a little differently. Why is this even coming up? Because the visits with my psychologist are rare nowadays, and I want to squeeze as much as I can out of every minute, so I dig into my head, sift through all the stuff I turn over, look for everything I can that still has me stumbling through whatever emotion I haven’t smoothed out yet.
I assumed all this time I was never accepted as I was. Of course, I wasn’t. I never felt loved or forgiven. I know now that is an erroneous perception that came through the tiny locality of a different kind of filter. I didn’t feel those things because I couldn’t generate them myself. I couldn’t need her or care about her, not at first, not for many years. Over time I have learned these things, and with lots and lots of very awkward practice, I’m even getting good at them. One thing I do know- Mom won. She may have lost the fight, but she won the war doing it. I wish my dad could see that and understand it, but he’s like me, and he never had a mom like that, so how could he?
My mom was a mess. She was sneaky and angry and emotionally wrecked up, and she hid it so well for nearly everyone else. She found ways to survive being tethered into what was essentially third class role-playing, even if she didn’t understand that’s what she was doing. She did her best to embrace what she thought was correct but must have instinctively known I couldn’t do that. This year looking back, my changing perspective is showing me that she gave me tools to help me learn to thrive intellectually, even if she didn’t have a clue that’s what she was doing. She did that part absolutely right.
The part of me that can finally share back what she needs from me is too late. I know she needed hugs and smiles and to hear that I love her, all of which I staunchly refused to do for many years, opting for conflict and openly mirroring back to her what she tried to hide from everyone else. I hated that our lives were a lie and a pretense and that she tried to make me wear masks. I kicked against the ropes, untamable, rebellious against thousands of years of socially acceptable behaviors, little knowing that all over the world others were doing the same thing. The world has changed so much in even the last two decades and still changing. All over the world we can see each other now kicking against all the things that tie our souls down to mundane acceptance of drudgery.
Survival is always the priority. Some TV shows ask us how far we would go to survive. I’ve been asking myself that for most of my life. Survival isn’t just physical. Emotional survival has a huge impact on physical survival, we know that now. It’s even common now to think of emotional health. My mother raised me in an era of stigma, and I know the pretense back then was the only way she knew to survive emotionally. As long as she pretended, she could keep a firm grip on a safety net. What made me so angry growing up was being able to see how precarious the safety net was- one wrong move, and they let go. Those on the fringes understood my mom, had private friendships with her one by one, while the others nodded and smiled. Just keep nodding and smiling.
All boiled down, I’m not a nodder and smiler. I don’t play the games that keep me plugged into judgmental acceptance groups. I walk away when people tell me I’m doing it wrong, and I don’t try to win their good graces.
I asked my mom once, What if whether people go to hell depends on whether or not we forgive them, like this is a test or something. If you knew you could keep someone out of hell simply by forgiving them for being wrong, would you do it? She thought for a bit and replied, No, because they’re still wrong. That was the moment I realized how the forgiveness boat gets completely missed. God forgives ‘sins’, humans don’t. Humans keep defining and redefining ‘sins’ and then keep inflicting each other with righteous indignation, for lack of better description. I then asked my mom how she would feel if she got to heaven and saw that wrong person there anyway. I saw the gear assembly lock up, watched her struggle a little to find a loop counter, and after a few more seconds wormed her way out of the conundrum (thought experiment) with something about it wouldn’t matter, because God said this and this. I interrupted with But wouldn’t you be happy that person wasn’t lost to eternal flames? She actually said no, to which I immediately replied How can you be not happy in heaven? (Since by very definition, heaven is unending happiness.) What she couldn’t see was her determination to keep drawing that line, no matter what, even though she was actually one of the kindest people in the entire town. Her belief system was so entrenched in drawing lines that she couldn’t allow herself to step over the line and think about something differently.
So she pushed me over. Again and again and again. She quietly pushed me over so many lines, and she watched me go out there and be who she couldn’t be- rebellious against the tethers of society, free to find and be myself. She didn’t approve of any of it, no, but she is the one who pushed me out there, because I am #aspienado, and I would have serenely sat in a corner and been fine with the world not bothering me. I would have sat in my room away from everyone and everything and never done anything with my life beyond playing board games and collecting model horses and reading loads of books. My mom was an instigator. That was one of her favorite words. She didn’t use it a lot, but when she did it rolled a little more fondly off her tongue than other judgmental words.
I think my mom would have been delightfully horrified over Pinky, for Pinky I have become. She always did love theatrical productions, the good guys vs the bad guys, the sassy women on screen that she couldn’t be in real life, the heroic men who loved the women supporting them that couldn’t happen in real life, the adventures and danger and winning the day. She gave me that. And all my life I’ve known the stories must come from somewhere. There really must be more to life than toeing a line and behaving and nodding and smiling. Like asploding the world.
She could never reconcile that gulf between the arts and real life, but she certainly tried. My mom was the closest example I ever saw in real life to anything like Mother Teresa (who was roundly judged for being in the wrong religious category), and while it was difficult to accept sometimes that she was there for so many others and not me, I did learn that with others she gained the reward of sincere gratitude. I never demonstrated my gratitude to her for anything. I spent my life blaming her for every little thing, like an #aspienado does, measuring how her intentions failed to out measure her faults.
Where is all this leading? (Really, I’m asking myself that. It’s not a writing gimmick.) Because she pushed me out into the world, I learned to survive emotionally. Yes, it was very hard, but I wouldn’t have been able to survive in the rigid box I grew up in, much less thrive. I am a destructive person, breaking illusions and smashing delusions all around me. No one can stand a boat rocker for very long. I would have wound up alone and very bitter.
I know a few might feel offended that I would dare speak for my mother, being the most antagonistic in her life, causing her so many problems and conflicts. I saw the dark side, the times she cried alone when no one else was around. I saw the frustrations when no one else knew, the pain she covered up and hid for so many years. She was so afraid to slip out of her precarious safety net.
My mom watched Existential Aspie leap off cliffs, and she never once told me to come back.
Note- it’s hard to convey so many years of emotion in one post. Apologies if it doesn’t make sense. I wrote it for me.