We learn all the time, that’s for sure. We don’t have to go to school to learn, but when we go to school we learn there too. What is it that we learn? That is the question, an important one, the only one that really matters. What do we learn? Once that question is discovered, other questions arise. How do we learn? These things need to be contemplated and carefully considered or we will end up learning the things we never wanted to learn and inadvertently teach those same things to our children.
These things have to do with the way life feels. When we learn that life feels threatening and uncertain then we learn how to survive in a fight or flight or even worse, freeze response. This sort of learning can lead to a life of anxiety and depression. If we are in a hostile, judgemental and critical environment, we learn defensive behaviours to protect our own sense of self. We can learn defiance, manipulation, withdrawal and so isolation can start young. We can learn to pretend, to put on a brave face, to pretend. We learn to please, to keep the peace. What we don’t learn is also important. What if we don’t learn to trust, to express our thoughts and our feelings? We can become alienated even from ourselves.
Thank goodness, that we never have to stop learning. We can unlearn and relearn and evolve and emerge and become. Always. The story that is told, keeps on telling itself. The story that is never told is the one we are ashamed of and the one that keeps the prison doors of pretense tightly locked.
I have been learning. The last two years have been a particular chapter that I will call ‘Life-long learning and school.’ I am a mother. One child, my whole heart and all my parental attention. He was born and a whole new world of learning opened up to me. It was a sort of awakening. I had to learn how to take care of myself, or else I could not be there to be his mother. Maybe I could have been there, but absent, surviving and despairing. I did not want that to be my presence, that is hardly being present. No, I wanted to be able to nurture him, guide him, show him hope and keep his vitality, his hunger for life alive. But how if I am lost myself, if I have lost my way. How, if anxiety and depression has taken me to a place of despair, or was it the other way around… did I sink into depression and anxiety because I found myself in a place of despair? It did not matter, all that mattered was to get out of that place.
I am glad to say that I found a way. I learnt and the learning continues. Every day. How? 1. By PAYING ATTENTION, CAREFULLY.
To what, you may ask. Everthing. Absolutely everything. What I say, what I hear, what I see, how I feel, that I don’t feel. What I think. The world around me. The ugliness, the beauty. My child, I paid careful attention to my child. He, in his innocence, helped me to discover some of ‘the way things are meant to be’, if there is such a thing. If not that then at least he helped me see something about ‘the way we are, the nature of a human being’. He helped me to discover that my deepest desire: for connection, for love, for belonging, was normal. He helped me to discover silliness again, to laugh. He helped me to discover wonder again and I could say ‘wow’ at the moon with him. I was his world and in that he taught me that I mattered, simply because I am, not because of what I can or have achieved. Because of him I wanted to achieve myself, my peace, my contentment, my presence with him. I wanted to find hope and meaning in life so I could guide him to find his.
He even showed me how to learn. He watched and then he copied. So I did the same. I watched, I listened, I found examples of contented lives and I copied. I read books and made notes. I started writing. It sort of started with a list of the things I was thankful for. Then it became more creative. I had to create a life that I could value. I had to formulate my own values, a code of conduct, habits to shape my life. I had to become fully engaged and take full responsibility for my life and every decision, however small. So the writing make my thinking more concrete, it became a method to bring order to what felt like a jumble. Some of the writing was angry, all of it was honest. Some of it was craze, some of it sad, but all beautiful eventually, it was part of a whole that became my wholeness.
Now there is a different reality. It all started in that dark place of lostness, of realising that I did not know. So I stay with that, even now that there is light, I stay with the reality that I don’t know. I pay attention and I learn and with that there is the ongoing flow. What I do know is that I don’t want to stagnate and delude myself about what I know, I’d rather pay attention and stay connected and take uncharted paths and learn.
The last two years took us on the uncharted path of home education in a home badly broken. I wanted to write this blog post about that, but will make it a new one.
In the meantime, maybe you can tell me what caught your attention today. If the answer is nothing, it might be time to slow down.