Thursday, August 21, 2008

Who We Are

What is the human soul?

What is determined by our early experiences and what by our genetic makeup? Almost everything, I would say. Most of who and what we find ourselves to be at the moment of awareness is nothing of our choosing.

I know that I personally struggle with the details, with making decisions and following through, with occasionally finding myself disproportionately overwhelmed by minor things, with debilitating sadness that arrives at times from no discernible source, with deep feelings of insufficiency. Other people struggle with entirely different sets of issues, which I won't even begin to try to compare to my own or even enumerate. And here's the thing: I don't think that is the point. We are each running the race as ourselves, and ourselves only, with universally unique challenges and appendages.

I do not know how I found myself here, how I came to be who I am, but here you have it. Katie, la Dancing Newt, child of the rain, and daughter of dreams. This is me floating in all of these variables, all of these traits, treading to keep my head above the water in a pool littered with scraps of who I was and who I want to be.

I look at my parents, like many kids do, with pretty harsh judgment. I see all of the ways they are not who I want them to be, who I feel I needed them to be. I look at friends who have hurt me, who have let me down, at people who have damaged those I care about. And I find myself angry that they could be like that, that they could DO such things.

I realized recently, though, that my mom and dad, by all statistical models, should not be who they are. It is something I can only attribute to their souls, their will, that they are the strong and loving people whom I know them to be. Without going into unnecessary detail, let's say they both were raised in environments with at least one seriously unhelpful character. It would be easy to transfer that pain and bitterness on to their children or to avoid the whole messy process of raising kids altogether. However, the fact that they have consciously dedicated so much of their time and effort toward ensuring, to the extent that they are capable, that each of us feels loved, safe, and accepted speaks to me of something amazing and beautiful. Surely they were and are not perfect as parents. Surely their childhood experiences have damaged and biased them. But the fact is that they TRIED. They saw things within themselves and tried to change it.

I look at my friends and see how they are trying desperately to grow and to cope with the shreds that life has tossed them. And some are still working on just accepting who they are. And they are all beautiful. I've just had this strangely generous peaceful feeling lately.

First is blind struggling, second is awareness, and third is conscious effort. And, hopefully, change, to the extent possible.

This, I believe, is where you see the true soul of a person, the moment that they are MOST themselves: when you are aware of them struggling against the backwards current of probability, against what is easy and safe and convenient. As imperfect as they are, as I am, this example is something I am very grateful to have received from my parents.

Honestly, I do not know what I am capable of in this life, but lately I find I surprise myself almost daily.


Sad for a While said...

When I first started going to counseling and dealing with my "parent issues," my brother-in-law said to me, "You have to understand how far your parents have come. They both grew up in severely dysfunctional families. They wanted to raise a better family, and they did. You guys are only semi-dysfunctional, so if you try as hard as your parents, your family could be functional!"

It's true--the important thing is not that we reach perfection but that we improve upon who we are and what we have.

The Dancing Newt said...

Yes, Sad, and the better I know you, the more impressed I find myself.

Loves. :)

Beth said...

I personally love your description of yourself: Katie, la Dancing Newt, child of the rain, and daughter of dreams.

Also, you are only judgmental of them sometimes. Sometimes you give them a lot of leeway and room to be human. Don't forget that.