holding you in and through my thoughts
|Letters of Kindness||Aug 15, 2020|
One of my constant pet peeves since a very long time has been the various ways in which we dismiss other people’s (and by extension, our own) experiences, emotions and wisdom about their lives in particular and about the world at large. There are specific ways in which this invalidation is generalised and to a large extent, normalised. Of course, a big part of why this interests me are my own experiences of being dismissed and invalidated because I was ‘too young’, ‘too emotional’, ‘too much’. Because of how much it hurt, I also made sure to internalise all of this in the form of shame and self-doubt—both of which I keep struggling with till this day.
I will probably talk about the last two in the upcoming newsletters, but this time, I am going to talk about how we invalidate young people because they are ‘too young’.
Most people close to me know that I feel particularly strongly about children and young people. I see them and I am reminded of the times I was shoved and neglected because apparently, I didn’t know enough to have a voice of my own, to say what is okay and what is not okay, to just be like I needed to be. Because of my work and otherwise, I get the opportunity to be around young people and speak with them quite often. And honestly, it always affirms for me more and more, that they are extremely clear about some of the things that they want (and don’t want!), but because of how they are constantly told that they don’t know enough, they eventually pick up a lot of doubts, fears and anxieties about themselves and the world. And honestly, I think that is the saddest thing.
What is this idea that we become wise as we age? What purpose does it serve for us as adults? Why can’t we be open and accepting of the wisdom, experiences and challenges that we all carry, irrespective of how old we are, and co-create welcoming spaces for all? What would it mean for us to challenge the urge to engage with young people from a position of authority and instead, sit right next to them and hold them?
Our ideas of who is ‘young’ and who is ‘old’ are rigid and they stopped serving us a long time ago. Our ideas that ‘experience’ is directly proportional to age have proven us wrong many times if we allow ourselves to actually see it. People who are supposed to be mature because they are elder have hurt me in ways that were anything but ‘mature’. People who are supposed to lack wisdom because they are ‘young’ have taught me so much about myself and my world.
The next time you see someone, see them as a person, witness their story, their challenges, their wisdom, instead of saying things like, ‘you are too young/old for this!’
PS: As you can guess by now, I admire and look up to everyone who works with young people in a way that helps them find and honour their wisdom, you can read this interview I did with one such group doing admirable work. Oh, and make sure to get their lovely (free) book!
I would imagine that most of us think back to our childhoods with nostalgia. The lucky ones are able to be nostalgic about their experiences as a child, but there are also some of us who are nostalgic about the innocence, the wisdom, the resilience and the hope that we embodied as a child, even when we weren’t always conscious of it at that time.
Last week, I got reminded of how I was as a child about my birthdays. It was my niece’s ninth birthday last week, and because of this pandemic, it was a small-ish gathering where we met and had dinner at home. She was excited as ever but as the day was nearing an end, she started to look sad. Nobody could understand what had happened at first, but eventually, she sobbed while telling us that she didn’t want her birthday to be over. Everyone around was kind of puzzled and a little bit troubled and bemused at her innocence and kept telling her how everything ends eventually and that we learn to cherish things only when and because they end. And so on.
I was silently watching all of this, while feeling very heartbroken seeing her and seeing the nine-year-old me in her who would cry exactly the same way for exactly the same reason, up until teenage (and even now, sometimes). When I finally managed to gather myself and talk to her, I started with, “You know, you remind me so much of how I would cry when my birthday was coming to an end and how I sometimes still do that!” She grinned excitedly through her tears and asked, “Till which birthday did you cry about it?” I said, “maybe till my 15th birthday and also sometimes now!” She exclaimed, “Oh, that means I have some more years then!” I told her I hated when my birthday would end because it would mean my hours of pampering, attention, appreciation and love were also over. Or at least my right to legitimately stake claims to all those things (and more) was going to be inexistent once again.
I think it would be safe to say that because of how strongly people feel about birthdays, the jury is still undecided on the ‘appropriate’ attitude one ‘should’ have for birthdays (if at all there is or ever was anything like that!). I am also quite conflicted about it myself. However, I think that underneath all of it, lies our discomfort (or maybe our conflict) with demanding and receiving attention and love.
Because of how it is generally considered ‘uncool’ to need love and attention, a certain sense of shame also gets attached with accepting that we do in fact like (want?) to be made to feel special and loved and appreciated. And birthdays, somehow, give us some leeway in feeling less ashamed about needing something we all need but are too afraid to admit and show otherwise.
I told my niece that even though it may not always seem like it, you are special and worthy of all the love and attention and gifts even on days that are not your birthday. You deserve to be celebrated because you are here, irrespective of what day it is. And I hope we all can hold on to that, birthday or no birthday. :)
‘On Kindness’ by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor
If you often think about what kindness actually is, how we have come to understand it over time and all the other questions and confusions that make it so wonderful yet so difficult to entirely understand, this book will help you gain some important and fun insights. It will help you reflect in a way that you will appreciate; not always pleasant but definitely enlightening.
Hear me read a portion from this book below:
‘Up’ on Hotstar
I watched this movie fairly recently and I knew I was going to love it, based on all that I had heard about it. And well, it made me cry, it made me smile and it made me sigh in a oh-my-god-this-is-so-beautiful-it-could-kill-me way.
Grief is not something that can ever be spoken about enough. It is also not something that can ever really feel enough because all of us experience it differently. But it is one thing that unites us in so many ways, irrespective of how our grief looks like. We are all grieving, or have grieved at some point in our lives and felt like it was the end of the world. It is messy, confusing, frustrating and horribly exhausting to be in grief. But it is a journey we all undertake, mostly unwillingly. And this movie reminds us that as long as we are here for each other, with our ice cream cones in hand, sitting on the side of the road with our loved ones, we may be able to hold each other through our collective grief(s).
Watch out for the insights and love this little boy has to offer and of course, for the lovely music!!
Hugs in Words
I do not know the battles you are fighting. I do not know the hoops you are jumping through just to get through the day. But I know that you are grieving. I know that you are grieving for so much more than you let on. I know you are grieving for things that seem too scary to even share with the world. I may not know what your grief looks like, but I know that grief in general looks and feels like a monster we all want to avoid at all costs—one that we cannot.
So irrespective of the object of your grief, please know that you are not alone. You are not alone in your frustrations. You are not alone in your tears. You are not alone in your anger. I may not know what it is, but I know I am thinking of you. And I am keeping you in my most beloved thoughts and wishes. I am holding you in and through my thoughts.
Love and light,
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