Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Then and Now

A common thing among the over 50s is nostalgia. I'm not big on it myself. I'm not anti, either, I even have my moments of mono no aware, but I try to shrug it off. Does no good. But I notice "The Old Days" have become quite a hobby with my husband. Not a problem, I leave him to it.

I'm more of a present and future kinda gal. I can't actually prevent my body aging, I can only look after it better, and mostly I fight the inevitable. And that is my choice.

I love history, don't get me wrong, I study it avidly, I just wouldn't want to live there. I've weighed up all the pros and cons, yes, considered everything, and I'll stay here, thanks. We live in interesting times, and no mistake, but it suits me.

One of the things people often say, when looking back to when they were younger, is "if only I'd known then what I know now". It wouldn't work, trust me. It's bad enough when kids are just "bright" and more aware than their peers. Gets them into no end of trouble. I was one of those children.

When I ask myself  "What didn't I know then, that I know now", there's obviously a long list. I'll come to that.  But I wasn't as green as grass. For reasons nobody can explain, I clued into some things early on, that I probably shouldn't have. I've mentioned this in previous blogs but it's worth looking at again.

Above all, I realised at a far too early age that adults were fallible and wisdom did not automatically come with age. I was no more than 6 or 7, and I remember being really very aware of this. Frighteningly, my grandson, not yet 6, has already figured it out.

Why is this a bad thing? I never said it was, I said it wasn't necessarily a good thing. For children in a bad situation, an abusive situation, a war zone, or whatever, it might be a life saver. What does it do to kids in stable, loving homes?

It make us cynical and arrogant. Occasionally manipulative.

To balance it out, thankfully, I was well-mannered, so even when I knew my teacher was beneath me intellectually, I said nothing. I just took advantage of her good nature. Please note, I'm not proud of this. I am opening my heart to you to admit I was a scheming, evil child. I got better.

What happened, in effect was that my intellect developed ahead of my empathy. That's not unusual in children, and many are temporaily sociopathic. It's just more extreme in some than others. It usually sorts itself out later on.

I had a very good childhood. I felt very safe, and could therefore concentrate all my time and effort on fun and learning, so I did.

It has been suggested to me that my lack of nostalgic tendencies are a direct result of this, for a number of reasons. It's a bit of an odd way of looking at it, but bear with with me, because it makes sense.

Quite often you find that the people who cling to happy memories in childhood didn't have that many of them.  These good bits that they dwell on STAND OUT, among a lot of stuff they prefer not to remember. My husband will tell you his childhood was so awful he's forgotten it, in a type of repression therapy. But get him on the topic of camping holidays, especially when he was a scout, and he remembers great detail. These were his precious times, escape to happiness.

Perversely, I have so few unhappy memories, that I could potentially re-live my entire childhood as some endless reverie, but I rarely do, because I'm quite content with today, and have no need to dwell in the past.

From what I've seen this is pretty much standard. Good childhood = well, that was nice but here we are. Bad childhood = but such precious moments, must cling to them.

I daresay there are exceptions to this, because people are complicated, but I see it over, and over, and over..........

Essentially it's all about the "innocence" of childhood, you see. And I wasn't innocent, in either sense of the word. I was guilty of a very long list, actually, and I didn't care then, and I'm probably not as ashamed of it now as I ought to be, because I chuckle when I tell the stories. My innocence wasn't lost in a tragic way, it just wasn't there to begin with - I was too damn clever.

When people yearn to return to the innocence of childhood, they are seeking a way of leaving their troubles and worries behind, back to when decisions were made for them, and people took care of them. Yes, obviously, that would be appealing to some personalities, some situations. I'm not knocking it, and please don't think I am. Even I have had days when the world seems very dark and the idea of zero worries sounds like bliss. I'm only human.

But my basic personality, when things are essentially chugging along as normal, is optimistic and positive, and the LAST thing I want is other people being in control: making decisions for me and/or taking care of me. I'm too independant and feisty. This, obviously, has a light and a dark side, let's not pretend otherwise, but there it is.

On the other hand, I don't want to do everything for myself, I'm too lazy. No, no, let's be honest, that's how it is. This is why I like the modern world. Not only can I have labour-saving devices and all manner of technological conveniences, but I have that CHOICE. I like choice. I can therefore choose to eschew them too. I can enjoy them, or I can say, no, thanks, I'll have a book instead of a Kindle. My choice.

Fiercely about choice. Yes. Not one to conform. It all goes back to that precociously aware child. The one who liked history when all the other kids didn't. The one who listened to Prokofiev at the same time as The Bay City Rollers. The one who never followed fashion and completely side-stepped teenage girl self-esteem angst. I had enough self-esteem for a small village. The one who thought the while idea of "cool" was ridiculous.

It had some obvious benefits. I never smoked, never dieted, never got involved with bad men.

On the other hand I was an insufferable know-it-all, and I know I was cruel to people I thought were beneath me.

So, what do I know now that I didn't know then?

Well, for a start I know that nobody is beneath me.

This isn't just a discovery that benefits me, it benefits you too. How's that?

I learned that nobody is above or beneath anybody.

I still stand by the idea that nobody is above me. Try to follow this reasoning, it's good stuff....

I stand below nobody. There is no human who is superior to me. Not one. There are plenty of people who are cleverer than me, braver than me, stronger than me, more tenacious than me, more diligent than me, more creative than me, kinder than me, and absolutely any positive quality you can think of. There are those who have several qualities in which they exceed me. But they have faults and flaws, as everyone does, and it all balances out. Humans just are. They aren't ranked. If I have nobody who is superior to me, and we are all equal, as I have come to believe we are, then nobody has anybody superior to them.

If we look up to other people, we do them no real favours, and if we look down on them we harm them too. Far better we treat one another as equals and deal with the details with that in mind.


  1. I can understand what it must have been like for you growing up. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but my friends(!) nicknamed me "Sarge" (short for sergeant) because I was also such a know-it-all and bossy child. Considering this was from people who felt they knew me most, I really could not argue otherwise. It was their way of telling me whenever I stepped out of that 'peer' level and into that other territory that was more than they wanted to deal with at the time.

    I see my current struggles (such as they may be) to be one where balance (for me; or what I consider balanced/equitable/honest/forthright) is once more not what others/peers do. Does that make me (once again) different? Scratch out "probably" and insert "yes." I recognize this of myself, so the choice remains to me whether or not/how much do I need to fit in?

    Sometimes the choice is easy, when made of my own influence and ideas. Sometimes, the external factors that lie beyond my control make the choice almost happen for me, which is a little sad to realize. However, I can make change happen (if I really need to) and this is where I find myself "today."

    So many questions and choices present themselves in any given day. I find that I dislike being 'forced to choose.' Similar to your observation about how none of us are greater or less than the next, being in the zero point of balance does have these...perils?...associated with it. As great as it is being here, balance does consist of being proactive. That, or there's a whole lot of 'splaining to do. ;) ~ Blessings!

  2. With you on not feeling nostalgic for the fifties, which were the formative time of my life. There were aspects of it worth keeping though. Our societies have a regrettable tendency to throw out valuable babies with smelly bathwater. Too much extreme swinging from one extreme to another. Very interesting observation on memories and happiness in childhood. Mine was mainly good at home, miserable among peers. Favorite cartoon by Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons: wrinkled old man, bent and miserable looking. The caption:"It was hell", says former child.

  3. What you wrote makes perfect sense to me. We aren't in the over 50's group, but my husband and I fit. I had a wonderful childhood except for school which I wish I knew how to repress those memories. But I don't wish to relive my childhood. I don't need any reminders of it. I don't keep things for sentimental value.
    On the other hand my husband likes to keep a lot of things around from his childhood which from my point of view was miserable. His memories are of being badly injured or of his house burning down. But he keeps random things that had nothing to do with his home. He also likes television shows from the 50's 60's and 70's. I find them dull.
    I like learning about the past but I would never want to live there.
    I am great at remembering there is no one below me (well except when I read facebook there I forget) but I have trouble remembering I am not below others.

  4. I'm not there yet, having grown up in the '70s but I do see your point.

    I was pretty much the outcast: intelligent but shy and awkward. Bullies targeted me frequently. I put people off and even lost a few friends because I happened to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. One parent actually forbade me to approach her daughter again, simply because she had overheard me explaining "the birds and the bees" (my friend had asked). I was eight years old at the time. It's my belief that incident sparked in me a distrust of adults which persisted for many years afterward.