Aspirational vs Survival

I wish I was more articulate.   My ideas can be very clear in my head, but putting them into clear, understandable English can be a real uphill battle – and I’m never sure  I really succeed.  Ideas are such a quick thing, so lithe.  Words are  clumsy.  Mine are, anyway.

Maybe that’s why playing the piano is such a pleasure.  No damn words!

I had such a great therapy session today.   Something I’ve been trying to get my head around my whole life clicked into place.   It’s the difference between aspiration and survival.

If you look at the Jewish family, its culture places massive value on aspiration, and the qualities of life that nurture it.  Protection, promotion, nurturing, back up and support from family and within the community, and the right to succeed without suffering are all an integral part of that culture.   Survival is presumed.

But look at the Catholic way of life.   Pain and suffering are elevated to the status of the only worthwhile human experience.   The most important person was the son of God, who ended up on a cross, being tortured to death out of love for us???  Plus, each person is born with a brand of sin on their soul (heck, that’s a bit rough), and if they get it wrong in life they end up in hell.  Sex is dirty.  Poverty, suffering and self-denial are saintly virtues.

Combine that deadly, asphyxiating, dessicating culture with a family culture driven by a mother whose needs are paramount, who will fake crises to maintain that status quo.   Add a dash of molestation and statutory rape to the mix and you end up with a somewhat minimized capacity to survive in the world let alone develop aspirations.

The family message on the surface is we love you, the one under the surface is drop dead.  We will help you if you’re in massive crisis – but just to survive, not go beyond that.  And even then we’ll control you and make you pay.  Otherwise we’ll stand on the sidelines and watch.

So I’ve got that one clear.   That’s what my hard-wiring is, and that’s what I’ve been changing in the past 6 years or so.   If I look back over my life, I had aspirations of what I wanted to do from a young age, but nowhere to go with them and there wasn’t even enough attention for me to ensure that I knew how to survive in the world.  And I didn’t.

I’ve spent my life wrestling with just survival, when all the time inside my heart and soul I’ve been longing to fly.  I tell you, it’s been a very unfortunate combination, Catholicism, my mother, and my spirit that longs to find its wings and fly.

Damn.  I should have been born in a Jewish family.  Trust my luck.

The aspirational side of me has always pushed at me from within.  But I’ve always been held up by my signal incapacity to go beyond survival.  If you don’t know how to do much more than just survive, you can forget about being able to develop your aspirations.  Maslow was right.    I’ve often felt like a wild animal thrashing against the bars of its cage.   The cage of my own beliefs.

Well, I reassure myself with the knowledge that you can work with what happened in the past to change your present and open your future, and that’s what I’m doing.  Building self-esteem, and emotional fluency, correcting misshapen beliefs and myths about life and who I am, increasing entitlement.  Building real survival skills.  Developing all my aspirational stuff at the same time.  What my family and my culture couldn’t do for me I’m learning to do for myself.  With a lot of help.

I reckon next time I’m born it’s going to be in one of those great Jewish families.   Lots of love, lots of nurturing, emotional fluency, lots of celebration of aspirations, great generosity of spirit.  A Steinway and a Stradivarius violin in the family waiting for me.  Violin and piano lessons as soon as I start wanting them!

Which would be cosmically stepping out of history I guess.


3 thoughts on “Aspirational vs Survival

  1. I had to smile. We all long for what we don’t or didn’t have.
    I was born and raised in a Jewish family, and experienced a bully for a father ( he had no time to be too concerned about feelings he hurt — a living had to be made in a difficult world), a mother who felt guilt and sorrow for her own unrealized aspirations, and a sister who yearned to be slim, and became addicted to amphetamines at 12, later to die of an O.D. at 39.
    And as to music, we did have a piano, and there were lessons. Sadly, though, it seemed at the time as just another sort of coercion. I’m finally back to the classical music I love (but I’m also 70).
    Got the legal education, but through a long and arduous career of seeing to other people’s quarrels, wished I had become a floor installer, who could finish a job, make a little money, and leave somebody happy.
    Enjoy your days. Take a look at the review of Wilbert Rideau’s new book in the NYTimes today–that will make you appreciate your life.
    David Chandler

    • Oh David I wrote a reply and just lost it! Firstly, welcome, and thanks for writing in. I’m sorry you had such a dreadful childhood. You’ve led me to realise the extent to which I drew from a couple of experiences and then extrapolated onto a whole culture. This only excludes truth and minimises people’s experiences which don’t fit into the generalization (pretty much everyone!).

      I do apologise, and thanks for being so nice about it.

      I understand about what you’re saying about enjoying your days. This blog is about trying to understand where the origins of our limiting beliefs and low self-esteem come from, and using that as a launch base to change them so our lives can be different. It may seem as if I don’t appreciate my life but that isn’t so, truly. I’m sure there are some happy blogs in here somewhere! explains why I think discontent – and voicing it – is important to me.

      Best wishes and I hope you stick around!

  2. Pingback: The thrill of getting a response from people « stepping out of history

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