Friday, January 13, 2017

When It Just Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Ah… just to be a teenager again! I smile when I think of how many people I have heard say that down through the years. It seems that we are sometimes stuck in the dreams of what it was like and visualize things that we want to remember and it brings nostalgia to a peak. I am not sure that there is any one specific time in life when this takes place. Many might claim that this could be an indicator of the period named as middle age crisis. There may be other times though. One doesn’t have to be in crisis to become reflective. In times of celebration, there can be such moments with old friends, while rehearsing fonder moments, when a person might make such a statement. While it is possible that during those times, such a statement is a mere consideration of the joys of memory and not a true reflection of desire to return to that age.

Someone made that statement a few years back to me. I smiled and submitted that I preferred the age I was then; then well over the tribulations of youth. It might be easy to make such a statement, as some would, and have it mean a return to that age, with the wisdom and understanding of adulthood. But, when that ideal has met full scrutiny, it lacks a depth of consideration of the pitfalls that would surface if that were the case. In my case I struggled with acceptance by my peers. I was a Christian; I had standards and many times took a stand on what I believed to be right, moral and just.  Being a teenager can be tough and finding your center, a place where you maintain a level of peace with self, and a peace with the world around you, is not always easy.

As we become adults, things change. To think that life becomes easier as we mature, is as dangerous as hiding your head in the sand, and pretending that if we just look at the goodness of life and steer clear of the heartache and pain, all will be well. Most of us have heard that old descriptive “fickle friends”. It happens to most of us at different levels. Not everyone understands the need for one of the crowd to wander off into a new relationship. Finding a boy or girlfriend who meets the needs of maturity can change the landscape of what was a norm perhaps for years. During that transition between being a teenager and a young adult, lives can be affected and friendships be uprooted, as people grow apart, while individuals search for their place and space in life.

My best friend in high school once told me that life changed. He was searching, lost perhaps, alone for sure, and looking in many places to find himself. He saw me, now with a wife and family, as someone who no longer understood his plight in life’s changing environment. My focus was now on family and not his and my relationship as old buddies. This becomes the dilemma of many who grow apart from an individual within a peer group, and suddenly feel left behind in life. It happens in personal relationship as well; marriages and families can drift apart. Things happen in life that can change our feelings, our perception of what life’s realities are, especially during times of trauma or long stretches of disturbance in family. There can be so many causes in that scenario, so many triggers and directed blames that surface, and too often silence pervades the true reason for change, creating a festering sore, widening the gap between what was and that which could be.

Why do people drift from the original plan? Why do circumstances in life seem to defy both our sensibility and sensitivity to those around us? How are people to respond to silence and remoteness and not feel deserted and alone in relationship? Why do we hear a statement like, “It just doesn’t matter anymore!” There are not too many answers that make sense. It may seem a simple assumption to just conclude that everyone works on the same level. One can fall into a deep cavern of misunderstanding when reductionism directs our thoughts. There are circumstances in life, reflecting both environmental and physical trauma that have “causal effect” on people, which are not always understood by the “other” in relationship. We must be cautious in judging others, as there is ever possible a moment when suddenly life may take a turn, which could uproot all that is thought to be the stabilizing forces in our own lives.

It is hard to understand the mind of a person, whose mind is made up! I’ve heard that in the voice of people that have mattered to me, along with people that I have tried to work with down through the years. It is the voice of surrender. It is the voice of gloom and reticence; it’s a silence that pervades the heart of the heart once broken, and reflects broken lives that often have been vibrant and thriving. There is no sense that makes sense any more. Some will never know that feeling. Maybe their strong personality types have prepared them for handling what seems to be the worst, regardless of what the reality of the situation is. Some can handle disappointment after disappointment; even that which has been self-inflicted, seemingly unaffected by external forces or stimuli. These people are not the norm.

I’ve been there. I know the drill. Some say that those who have suffered themselves try to work with those who are in similar circumstances, in hopes that others will not suffer as they have. It is not an easy process and carries with it many pitfalls. You carry both the heartache and pain of others, along with the need to fine-tune your own psyche to allow personal adjustment within allowable tolerances, so that nothing will trigger a relapse in your own life. Most educators train students, preparing for counselling, to remain aloof, isolating themselves from interfacing too closely with the problem. They are taught to deal first with the emotions being projected, and then ascertain the means by which those emotions can be handled in recovery. It is a long road filled with hazards, and not all clients/patients present exactly the same. The worst cases are those who become quiet, seemly adjusting, making personal contacts again, while any presentation of anxiety, that had been previously severe, is suddenly silent. In these cases life seems to have returned to normal, a crisis averted. While this may seem a good thing, students are cautioned that this may be only an indicator of a deeper problem. 

I have been asked, “How then do we understand, identify and truly know when to deal with depression or in the worst case scenario, suicidal tendencies?” I wish that I could just snap my fingers and be capable of giving a universal blanket statement that would cover all the needs out there. It would be so simple, but for the complexities of life, relationship, and the human factors of embarrassment, defense of family image, along with the popularity of camouflage.  I am not speaking of the style of clothing worn by so many, but perhaps it does reflect societies corporate bent toward wanting to hide behind something that will disguise the reality of life being lived. The camouflage, of which I speak, is when families protect the image with a false front, a fa├žade of good, stable family conditions. Families struggle, people react to stimuli differently and sometimes they grow apart, not meaning to, or at other times being forced to by internal strife or indifference. We can’t hide from that, nor can we hide it form community… it is most often acted out in our personal lives.

Where do we look for answers, is another big question that arises. How we deal with problems in life, as mentioned already, is as varied as it is many. There are no easy answers, but here perhaps those methods in counsellor training, have some degree of meaning for all of us. We all need to discover what is causing the pain, how it is manifesting itself and this takes a true search of feelings we call introspection. It is too easy to deflect during this process, so it is necessary to take time to look inside from a distance, like another may see what is taking place. The second part of the plan is finding a way to manage, or halt the pain, of those emotions. How that is done can be stylized to the individual for sure. There can be mental exercises, medications and even a change of atmosphere, where we are removed from the stimuli causing the stress. How about this as an alternative; I prefer this as a first line of defense of course! Move toward one of the greatest reasons for living, that being love. We sometimes have to love ourselves first, before we can love others. That can be a fair statement in most minds. God says that unless we can love others we cannot truly love Him. Does it not stand true then that if we cannot truly love ourselves, at some basic level, we cannot love others or God fully. It is a hard place to be… standing alone in a puddle of life’s stench and feel self-hatred and lost. There can be nothing worse than that!

It is then that we stand on the edge. It may take great courage to begin to forgive yourself for being you, but that is what life is. It is a series of steps we take, or have taken, that lead to various places that are not always comfortable or tenable. It is then that mistakes are made, reality becomes distorted and discomfort creates within us a misery that isolates and judges our sensibilities wrongly. Here we must rely not on self, but on God. There is nothing that we can do, but surrender; not to stupidity, but to love.  It is God’s love, and His wisdom, that is necessary for healing of our hearts, lives and souls. I pray that if you, or someone you know is approaching a difficult time in life, is there, or has been there, do not allow them to feel alone. Talk to one another and most of all, talk to God… together. He is watching over you!