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We Can Enjoy It!

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the Family Work Leaders’ Family Workshop in Massachusetts, USA, September 2012 

We have made counseling resource available for young people in ways it wasn’t available for those of us who are now adults. We’ve done a good job. We have shifted the landscape for our young people. We also keep looking at how we do it. As we get through our confusions, the work gets to shift along with us.

Especially in this work’s early years, we dutifully gave children opportunities and pushed ourselves hard. It was useful. However, the dutifulness set in a certain tone that was short of our liberation. We can try for more than that for ourselves.

It is possible to push ourselves forever to play—but we also get to enjoy it. Which distresses do we have to challenge to enjoy it? Why is it hard for us to play on our own? Why do we sit instead of playing—until we are required to play?

We do very well. We do as well as anybody else does, and in a consistent fashion. But we also need to discharge as much as we can. We can’t just keep going. We need to be open about how much work that has been and how hard we have pushed ourselves. We don’t take care of ourselves just by pushing. It’s great we can do it, but it can leave us pushing forever instead of discharging the material1 so that it’s not a push. Pushing forward is part of enjoying life, but we also deserve to simply be alive.

How do we act toward our young ones? We do well, but we also feign happiness. We smile and push ourselves to not sound the way we usually sound and not look the way we usually look. We try to look better than that, in the direction of being human and happy. The fact that we make the effort is what the young people use. They see that we are trying in their direction. They see that we are fighting as best we know how against what happened to us in order to keep it from happening to them. But the effort shows.

We dare not consider how happy we actually are to be with them. We dare not be openly happy about it. We are reasonable about it. Some young ones can still be openly pleased to see other young ones. They light up. They’re really happy. They can still be overjoyed. They can look happy and sound happy and run uninhibited just for the joy of motion. We can sometimes do an approximation of that, but in general we can’t be openly happy; we don’t fully notice the joy of existence. And it shows.

The material that has left us unsure and unhappy about others can feel unbearable. We try not to look at it. We don’t know how to be as happy as we could be about other people. We don’t allow ourselves to be overjoyed at the chance to be with them.

This is not a personal criticism—we all have this distress. It can’t be any of our faults. It has to be because of what conditions were like for us. Nobody got to stay alive in this way.

We can more fully face the harsh separation and grief we went through early in our lives, and went through alone. Nobody made much effort toward us, so we toned down our behavior and our expectations. We toned them down and toned them down and toned them down, until we were like the adults. This has always been a limitation on what young ones can see in us. They take as important reassurance the fact that we try, but that can only go so far. We need to challenge and discharge our limitations so that our children can take heart and challenge theirs.

An odd little thing has helped me keep noticing this:  my family’s dog, which is now two years old. It’s overjoyed. It’s simply overjoyed. It has been treated well and kindly. It’s overjoyed! It comes in and is beside itself2! It runs up, it wags its tail. It wants to snuggle, to lick. It will do all of that and then run back to others and do it with them, then run back again, and back. It’s just so happy with its existence, and having us show up3 in it.

Can we be like that? Why aren’t we? What do we have to discharge? What do we have to challenge to even think of being that pleased, especially out in the open? Who stepped on you when you were that happy? Who ended that possibility for you? How do we open this path a little farther? How do we (happily!) push out in this direction?

1 “Material” means distress.
2 “Beside itself” means in a state of extreme excitement.
3 “Show up” means appear.

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00