Growing up and living in the USA over the past 4+ decades has been an interesting and challenging adventure.
Born at the tail end of the 60’s, I don’t count as part of the Boomer generation. Having my formative childhood in the early 70’s disqualifies me from truly being part of Generation X, which is fine with me. I am one of those annoying people who have a difficult time answering multiple choice, statistical questions without wanting to select a combination of answers, since none of them is completely accurate – ever. So, whether it’s my personality (nature) or how & when I grew up (nurture), even from my very beginnings, I’ve fallen through the cracks, much like Alice going down the rabbit hole. (Ahh, I can hear the sounds of Jefferson Airplane’s, White Rabbit)
Currently, there are scores and scores of resources accessible on parenting, boundaries, healthy relationships, and how to seek and practice fulfillment and happiness. However, these resources didn’t exist at the time and the biggest parenting resource was Dr. Spock’s, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. According to the Wikipedia article, Dr. Spock suggested that, “‘Our only realistic hope,’ …, ‘is to bring up our children with a feeling that they are in this world not for their own satisfaction but primarily to serve others.'” To be perfectly honest, this is not my memory of how I was raised or how many of my peers and subsequent generations were brought up. I’m sure there are many who have either been raised with this philosophy or have arrived at this same conclusion through their own experiences. I just didn’t know anyone in my world who lived their lives or taught their children to live life this way.
Instead, I, along with a significant number of others, grew up without the guidance, structure, attachments, and nurturing relationships children need to live life with a sense of purpose, belonging, and cohesion. The adults in my world occupied themselves with surviving their own personal demons and pinballing from one circumstance and consequence to the other. Which is basically what I wound up doing as an adult. My own, now adult, children grew up with that kind of chaos themselves. Growing up without a sense of connectedness, stability, attachment, and with no sense of purpose other than to make it from one day to the next is a breeding ground for multiple layers of personality defects and character flaws.
The biggest thing I grew up with is a complete lack of security and stability. Overt abuse wasn’t the issue. I was mostly left to my own devices, to figure things out for myself. I grew up an only child in a single-parent home (sometimes – mom married three times before I was six and the last marriage was over when I was ten). We moved around a lot and didn’t stay more than a couple of years in one place. Therefore, striving, seeking and straining to achieve a sense of security and stability, became the goal – consciously or not. Happiness was then equated with attaining security and without understanding what a sense of security comes from, my focus was inconsistent. It still is in many ways. Education, relationships, jobs, health, and religion are all things I have sought after to obtain happiness. Not surprisingly, happiness has been an elusive thing.
Lately, the concept of personal sacrifice has come up more and more often. Not in the co-dependent, martyr syndrome way of manipulating others or trying to control that which isn’t in my control; but, out of a willingness to recognize and appreciate what I have been given and have to offer others. This is a different concept for me. It requires me to stop looking at all the things I don’t have, didn’t get, or had taken from me and instead to see all the things in my life from the perspective of what I have, gifts I’ve received, and recognize opportunity in all things.
I think this will be my new goal and mission: to live my life in a way that cultivates the “attitude of gratitude,” liberating and allowing me to genuinely give of myself, thereby, sacrificing my need to manipulate and control others out of a need for stability and security, and enabling me to genuinely experience and share happiness.