We need boundaries to grow

Dear quarter lives,

This is a short story about letting go, about growing apart and growing healthy. It is a story about our need for space to grow, about our need for boundaries, even with our most beloved mothers and fathers.

***

One day someplace where there were streets and crossings, a young mother and her son were about to cross the street. The little boy was very afraid. He had never crossed a street before. He had seen stories on the news of people who died crossing the street, but never about those who had survived crossing the street. So he assumed that people just died crossing the street. He didn’t understand why his mother would want him to do such a thing as cross the street, but he didn’t question her, she was his mother. The boy held his mother’s hands as tightly as he could, to the point he was hurting her just a little bit. You could see his little hands latching onto her big hands tucked in and protected by their sheer size. Her big hands were nothing compared to her tall body, like a walking tree beside him, she protected him. As he stepped onto the zebra crossing, his eyes began to sparkle, wondering why the marvelous lines changed colour so frequently. Black. White. Black. White. Black. White. And as his mother took a large step in front of him, she cast a long shadow over him, a shadow longer even than she was. 

The little boy fell into a deep darkness. His mother falling only a split second after him onto her knees and over him. Her shadow now much stronger and much closer. He slipped further and further away into the dark. She did not know what to do but to hold him close. And the closer she held him, the further away he went. ‘Let go!’, someone in the crowd shouted. ‘I can’t, he needs me.’ ‘Let go of him. You have to.’, they shouted again. ‘I can’t leave him alone. He’ll be so afraid.’ Her tears were falling on his face.They came closer now. Their hands held her shoulder, ‘We’ll be here for you. He needs to come back alone. You must leave him now. Trust, dear mother. Trust him. Trust yourself. Trust us, your community. There is nothing you can do but trust that he will come back, but you must let him go.’

‘Can you help me let him go?’ ‘I can stand by you, but I cannot remove you. You must choose to get up. You must choose to stand separate from your son until your are distant enough that you cast no shadow onto him.’

And with all the love she could find in her heart for her little boy, the mother stood up slowly, as though she was a toddler standing up for the first time, not knowing whether to trust gravity yet. And as she returned to her tree-like posture, stable, standing and grounded, she carried her legs with all the power she could muster, for they were the heaviest three steps she would take in her entire life. Now standing away and across from her son, she no longer cast a shadow on his heart. There was a long silence. The silence of waiting. Tears still rolling down her face, puddles forming at her feet, now at her knees again, all she could do was think, and when she thought, she doubted. She doubted herself, she doubted her son, she doubted her community. But her community stood by her, reminding her they were still here, reminding her to trust, ‘Trust does not betray those who make space for it in their hearts, so make space, dear mother.’ 

And as she drew in one more breath and exhaled another, she looked over to her son. His eyes were beginning to open. She almost ran towards him, but a hand held her back and whispered gently in her ears, ‘I know it is painful, but that is what we must do. We nourish them until they can nourish themselves. We support them until they no longer need us. You see, dear mother, it is our duty not to smother ourselves onto our little ones. It is our duty to let them grow into their own being, that is our role ― to teach them how to fill their space, to show them that boundaries are essential so they can spread roots and reach the light themselves without help from any mother or mediator.  You see young mother, if our shadow remains cast on their bodies, we are no better than weeds whose shadow and needs kill all that is around it. Parenthood is a journey very few endure in truth. It is the hardest lesson to learn. It is one intended for the growth of the mature spirit, and the subsequent survival to youth of the infant soul. So rejoice my daughter, your pain will transform you. And soon he will have grown into a parent himself, then he will come to you for guidance and support, for his turn too will come when he will have to let go of his young ones. So let your child go, give him back to the universe, let him scour for his food, hunt and grow, and as the cycle continues, he will ask for your hand one day as you have asked mine. Do you remember me now? I am your mother from long ago. Today, you have passed the most difficult test of all. Today, you have truly mothered your child into being. Today, you have let go of your attachment to your child. Now, you are both free.’

***

Thank you for reading. Thank you for accepting this invitation to contemplate.

With love and peace,

S.A.

Reconnecting to Your Childhood is Important.

Dear quarter lives,

This is a kind reminder that we in fact never grow out of our childhood. We mature in voice, we grow new teeth, but we do not grow new primary experiences of life. Perhaps this is why childhood remains a significant part of our memories and our present-day reactions to the world. It is how we first received the world, how we were first welcomed by it or terrified by it, it is our introduction into life, and so as all first impressions, it counts a great deal.

Remorse, do not have for your child self. It is an emotion laced with guilt. Steer away from guilt, for it is one laced in fear. And fear is laced in darkness, so do not scare your children, they are still alive and care not for your guilt but would much rather be held out in the light – the bright light of love. It is there that all children thrive, it is there that they would like to live, so take them to love and away from the pains of nostalgia, away from all the memories that happened and the ones that never did. It is dangerous to live in a past that no longer is, a past that cannot be changed but one that hopes so badly it could. A past cannot be different than what it was. It cannot be anything except what it is. As adults with children in pain living inside of us, we fall into this trap when we remember the past, we cannot accept it for what it was, and in turn reject the present for what it is, in hopes to move to a future that cannot be. But what we fail to realise is that when we reject our past, we reject our child self too along with it, we reject their truth, we refuse to recognise them for who they really are. It is us you see that inflict pain on our child selves, it is our rejection that leaves them feeling ashamed, it is our abandonment that leaves them feeling like they are alone in this world. But children you see are most forgiving so let them teach you how to forgive them. They will embrace you with all the love they have if you just allow them to. They too can guide you back to yourself, but only if you trust them. And trust the children we must.

Children are seekers of the light, they are drawn to love and always move towards it so have faith that your child knows the way, they might be your only way back home. Do not burden yourself O adult with the hows, whys and what ifs. Let go of your need to lead the way. Let go of the idea that the adult is supposed to know the way. It is often our inner children that are best suited for leading these journeys. Our adult beings are too tainted by a material reality they have come to believe is real, so they cannot walk past it, they cannot let it go. And to go back home one must be prepared to let go of many attachments including that with reality herself. We must walk through reality, not become it. Unfortunately, most adults have become the reality they have lived in for so long, they have become the identities and labels they were given only as glasses to experience the world through, but instead these glasses stayed on their faces for too long, and they forgot they were even wearing them. Now confused that their glasses are their eyes, they are so afraid to let go of them because they think they are sacrificing their eyes.

If one is to return to being the camera man rather than the camera itself, one needs to reconnect to their child self to find that faith again to trust. Trust allows us to hand over our reigns of control. To give in our power. Trust allows us to accept our lack of knowledge. And who better to teach us about trust and navigating through the unknown than children who are born to people they know nothing of yet they trust these people with all their hearts to love them and keep them safe. So dearest quarter lives, reconnect with your child selves, it might be the most valuable thing you do for yourself. And remember it is like approaching any child, you must smile, be kind and ready to play a little.

Love,

S.A.

Who Am I?

Who am I? It is one of the first questions we ask as children. It is the question parents dread and seldom know how to answer. For many of us, the answers offered to this question were far from satisfactory, and if anything, derailed us from finding our truth. Parents often assume that what they say to a little child with such a big question isn’t that important; that they should keep it simple for our sake, for the child’s sake, for surely a child cannot grasp a complicated answer like “I do not know. Only you know.”

Instead of being encouraged to explore our questions further, our curiosity is stunted by our parents’ own fears of that question. Parents often think they cannot answer a question with “I do not know”, because they think it would scare the child, but the truth is, it scares them. It scares them that they don’t know, so they hold on tightly to what they do know and that is that we are their children. But we are much more than that. They think by telling us they do not know something, they will rattle our sense of security, our trust in them. On the contrary, by pretending they always know, parents unconsciously create this expectation from us that they know everything, that everything they do is right, that they couldn’t possibly make any mistakes because they know. And so, when they do make mistakes, it traumatises us and shatters our world, because we were not warned of this possibility that they might not know everything. We find it hard to trust them afterwards because they unintentionally lied to us about their knowing everything. They didn’t give us a heads up that they are human, that they are imperfect, just like everyone is, just like we would grow up to be. And so, they instill this expectation in us that when we are adults, we will know everything too. But we quite quickly reach adulthood and realise we know very little, and then we panic. We feel like failures, like inadequate people who do not know everything but should know everything according to what we were told directly or indirectly by our parents, and then we grow grievances towards our parents, disappointed that they let us down, that they lied and made the world seem simple, that they refused to expose us to its complexity because they thought we couldn’t handle it, that they sheltered us and never taught us how to swim through life then expected us to be able to navigate its storms.

And so, to all parents, to all prospective parents, and to all quarter lives soon to become parents, I ask of you for the sake of your child’s survival to always speak the truth, the complex truth, the truth that we do not know everything, and that we must get comfortable with not knowing, that until the day we die we will not have known everything and that that is absolutely okay. To make your child comfortable with the unknown, to teach them how to surf its waves rather than fear them, is the greatest gift you can give your child. 

So let us discard the answers that attach our children to false identities that they must later work very hard to unlearn. Let us not answer them when they ask “Who am I?” with “You are my little genius.”, “You are my happy child.”, “You are my beautiful girl.”, “You are my funny boy.”. Because they are more than that. They are much much more. So do not let them believe that their worth depends on these labels. For it does not. For their worth is infinite, it is eternal. And they should know that. They should know that they are love. That they are light. That they are the sun, the moon and the stars. That they are everything and anything they want to be. And leave it to them to realise what it is they are, what it is they want to be, what it is they are not. Like you expect your children to trust you, the parents, you must trust them too. You must have faith that they can find themselves. You must allow them to discover their own answer, not what you think the answer should be, or what you think the safest answer is. You must trust that deep inside they have a knowing that will guide them to it. All you need to do as a parent is to encourage them to listen to themselves, to hone that skill of listening so that they can discern the answer from all the noise. It is that connection to their inner voice that will guide them through life. You, as a parent, are there to hold space for your child to grow. You are there to witness their growth; you are not there to grow for them. And so, it is this deep knowing that we all have inside of us that eventually screams to us from the deep depths within, that alerts us to the inadequacy of the answers we were given. It is this knowing that always brings us back to this question. Whichever phase of life you find yourself in, whichever age you are, you will always ask yourself this question — Who Am I?. And I believe that we never truly stop seeking answers to this question. It is our guiding light. It is the question from which all other questions come. It is no ordinary question, and neither shall its answer be.

As the question extends the span of our lifetime, so does the answer. It is always formulating itself, showing us just a little more every step of the way. And so, we should never stop asking it. What we should stop doing is expecting an answer so finite, so limited that it must be expressed in words. For there are no words that can begin to express this answer. The part of us that asks this question does not speak the language of words. It is that part of us that is infinite, and so lacks the capacity to fit into words, for they are too tight, too small, too two dimensional. Just take a moment and imagine all the words that exist, all those words that have been invented to describe and communicate all the things that these words represent. And then imagine all the words that don’t exist, that have never been invented, the words that could not have been invented because they could not represent the things they would represent in just words. And so for these things, there are no words. No words with definitions adequate enough to describe them. For words themselves need to be as limited as possible in order to serve their function. Every word must be so limited, so precise in its definition, that it excludes all other definitions, all other possibilities of things it could represent so that it only represents one thing. And so, given the natural limited nature of words, do you think it’s even possible to try to answer the question of Who am I using them?

I continue to ask myself this question Who am I? everyday, not as a luxury, for it is who I am. It is no small feat. There is a reason it is one of the first things we ask as soon as we are able to ask. It is why we are here. It is how we grow our connection to Self. It is how we find our own voices, our unique vibrations. For this connection to our Selves is the most vital of all connections. It is the connection of a lifetime. It is why people who are disconnected feel so isolated. It is why those who spend time alone, but are connected do not feel alone. It is not solitude that is lonely; it is disconnection from one’s Self. 

Leo Tolstoy once proclaimed in the diaries of his youth that the entire essence of life can be encapsulated by two questions: “Who are you? What are you?”

Till next time,

S.A.