Monday, January 5, 2015

The More We Stay the Same

My journals are snapshots of my mood when I wrote, and they make a misleading permanent record. They were a natural method of self-expression at the time, and now they are … kind of embarrassing. Oh there are little gems: descriptions of people and bits of conversations, letters and photos tucked in, sweet or funny things my children said or did when they were small. There are many valuable reminders safe in those books.

Everett came out Xmas Eve and set up and decorated the tree. Today I tried to convince him to come out again and take it all apart. Had no luck though. I may have to try sweetening the pot somehow. He's got the week off work and the water pipes beneath his bathtub have frozen and won't drain. 

 Yet a lot of it is stuff I don’t want or need to remember now, and in a way would like to wash my hands of, destroy, let go— as opposed to lugging it around or leaving it behind. But before burning the books, I want to go through them for anything worth keeping; for instance, the letters, the memories of my children, the times spent with loved ones who are gone now. There is a lot there; it’s not all bitching and wondering why, that is for sure. 

But quite often, as I read here and there in the journals, I don’t much like the writer. I want her to grow up and get over herself. I want her to rise above many things and be wiser and stronger than she was. I see that 30 years ago I was upset by the same things that upset me now. I fear I have failed to change and grow; I am experiencing the same frustrations. I see this and am disappointed and concerned.

After a couple days of stewing on this, it occurred to me that perhaps this is not a personal failing after all. The popular psychology is that we repeat patterns in our relationships with family, friends, and people in general, and that if these patterns make us unhappy we have to strive to free ourselves from them, from their hold over our lives. We do this by becoming aware of the patterns and making consistent, longterm efforts to change them. I had been thinking that, since the same things upset me now that pissed me off 30 years ago, somehow I am at fault, that I must have been too weak or lazy or foolish to make essential changes.

 It took me a few days to realize it makes perfect sense that the bullshit that bugged me at 20 would still bug me at 55. If someone is rude, selfish, inconsiderate— for example –  well, why wouldn’t I be affected by my surroundings, just like any human being is? Why would I become less sensitive to injustice, cruelty, foolishness, betrayal and so on? We do not become less sensitive as we live longer; we become more sensitive, more aware.

And sure, we learn to handle things better. Just maybe not in our journals, where we don't practise kindness or even diplomacy.