We are who we remember ourselves to be, and that self narrative can dramatically affect how we live in the present. Viewing our whole life as well spent is like having a set of blocks to start from, our whole life as a waste like watery sand.
I do think when someone is suffering there’s a kind of stasis that sets in that says the world has always been and will always be so. I was talking with a fried struggling with depression, who’s viewing the world and the future as half empty, with tigers down every path. He’s passing under the first edge of a raging firestorm with his young family wearing glasses that hide the beauty of the world, and our job as people who care is to remind him that he’s not well and there is indeed hope and beauty in this world.
For me that happens with really bad migraines and it was true for depression as well. Yet that knowledge doesn’t help as much as we’d like because the inner dialogue tells us it isn’t true.
I used to remember my childhood in a pretty negative way, times when I’d argue with my dad, the few events involving physical or emotional violence, and the assumption I had been unhappy as well. The assumption!
It’s hard to justify that from the real memories I have. Certainly the episodes of violence, mostly fights with other boys stick out, but there were few and nothing worse than some air knocked out or a bloody nose. Unpleasant, but hardly horrifying. It made middle school a tense place to be though, but I suspect most bookwormish young men could say the same.
I remember mostly good memories of things done with my dad. He’d bring home these various science oriented things. I remember a kit where I built a working motor, a steam engine and the excitement having the engine fire up (what can I say, in those days a kid actually got fun out of a yo yo). A little older and I was in cub scouts and for a while my ever patient mother did a stint as a den mother corralling a bunch of small boys.
I remember my dad proudly bringing home this electric learning kit for me to play with. I was somehow worried that I’d get a bad grade and disappoint him, but I had a lot of fun with that heap of plastic.
I built model rockets and we fired them off together. We collected pond water samples and looked at single celled organisms using a beautiful antique microscope. He had bought it with a whole bunch of slides and lab gear for $200, a great deal, but a fair bit of money in 1970. We tried to build a working Van der Graff generator and it never got working, but we did buy one from Edmund’s scientific, who put out a really cool catalogue back when.
He supported so many other hobbies. Some came and went, some stayed. I ended up taking over part of his electronics room in the basement. God love him, but he gave me all those preparation chemicals we got with the microscope and I don’t think he ever knew how darned dangerous they were. Full blown lab strength hydrochloric, sulfuric and nitric acids, toluene, xylene and benzene, oy. There was a lot of other less potentially noxious and carcinogenic stuff like formaldehyde to fix slides. I was old enough to not just randomly combine chemicals thank goodness. I didn’t really understand the danger until I had taken my AP chem class.
Photography became a hobby late in my tenure at home. I bought my first camera in my senior year of high school off of tip money from the well off ladies at the local supermarket. Saturdays I’d have a stint at carrying bags to their cars and I’d get a quarter or fifty cents (1975 mind you) and pretty soon I had the money for the camera and the supermarket could hire football jocks who didn’t understand that mixing bleach and ammonia is a very bad idea.
Music, always music. Playing clarinet, piano, guitar, flute. Somehow musical instruments were purchased on my father’s meager salary as a corrections officer.
There were things we did without. There was no money for elaborate vacations, or really vacations. We barely travelled to see his family and a small amount of my mom’s.
In balance I stopped telling myself a history about a few bad moments and a few arguments and a really nice story about being loved and supported. In my story being trans was there like so many other things. It did or didn’t enter into some of the growing pain memories because I truly don’t know and can’t remember. More importantly, it really doesn’t matter.
If the world had been different would this story have changed? Of course it would, but so would it have changed had we been better off, or any of a hundred different things. I survived a hundred kinds of childhood foolishness that boys get into. Nothing really dumb mind you, although I got into candlemaking and I don’t think melting paraffin on a gas stove was a smart idea.
Think positive thoughts and give yourself the best foundation you can. String together the good memories and noble decent things your parents did for you. If you try you might just surprise yourself.