My 13-Year-Old Philosophy

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bulbMy mother, may she rest in peace, often got on my nerves in a big way. I don’t discount her great qualities or her struggles with life. She was intuitive, very funny, witty, warm, and a good friend to many people.

But on the difficult side, I remember her being incredibly controlling, repetitive, and at times, really hostile. I often had no idea of what I had done wrong or how I had angered her, and she was not one to apologize for her outbursts.

At thirteen, I (along with many others) discovered the book, The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. The chapter called “Your Children” begins with, “Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but are not of you…”It continues beautifully and poignantly.

I placed the book with the chapter on children bookmarked on my mother’s bed pillow. I have no memory of what I felt or thought while doing it. She and I did not discuss it. My father though, let his displeasure with my action be known. He reproached me screaming and scolding. The only line in his tirade that I remember is, “I don’t care about your 13-year-old philosophy. “

As I began writing this month’s blog called, “To Meditate or Not“, I was dragging my heels, procrastinating, and doubting whether anyone would be interested in what I had to say. I was planning on writing about my thoughts, my experiences, and my opinions (maybe even, my philosophy).

I needed to pause and investigate the feeling/belief that maybe what I had to say didn’t matter and that most people would not be interested. While this uncomfortable feeling was not solely due to my father’s attitude alone, it was the memory that quickly popped into my mind. So instead of writing about meditation I paused, reflected upon this memory and wrote instead about me. My introspection and immersion in this memory, even though painful, left me a little lighter, closer to myself, and to moving on. Thank you for listening.

Please share any of your responses, I love hearing from you.
Appreciated, Deborah

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11 Replies to “My 13-Year-Old Philosophy”

  1. It’s those painful experiences that are the most profound teachable moments in our youth, that guides us in our adult years. They had no idea. So we say thanks and learn from the lesson as we move on.

  2. I know of a WONDERFUL song by Sweet Honey In the Rock that uses those lines as lyrics. Absolutely engaging… and the tune is engraved lovingly in my mind AND heart.

    I look forward to reading more from you, Deborah. Nice way to start… by clearing the emotional deck.

  3. I can relate to this feeling Deborah. I’ve had many stories like that growing up to- with especially my father (and sister) telling me my thoughts/feeling/beliefs didn’t matter. And it’s powerful to recognize these memories are reasons- in those moments we feel/believe of lacking/fearing something in ourselves. So instead- you wrote you about you- and I applause you for that 🙂

  4. Having been in the same room when my father went on that tirade, I’ll fill in some more of that story.
    During that time, I was struggling with drugs and emotional turmoil, and my father was getting ready to take me to a follow up visit to a drug rehab facility in Hackensack. Deborah , my father and I were all in the kitchen when he started yelling. The main thing I remember coming out of his mouth was “You want to be a junkie like your brother”. I was pretty scared and kept my mouth shut. He and I then got in the car and headed up Summit street towards Hackensack. He was still pissed off and then added, “when you sent me that emancipation letter ( a letter I sent from college letting them know I didn’t want to be forced into following their religious practices), I should have punched you in the mouth”.
    I was too scared and unable to process this experience until much later in my life. My father’s violent reaction to both the book and my situation was driven by fear, ignorance and the belief that he could control what he didn’t like or understand in his children by shaming and raging. For my part, I desperately needed love, support and understanding, not punishment. But this was 1969 and these were my parents.
    After years of therapy and finally discovering Narcotics Anonymous, I was able to get out of addiction and get my life going in the right direction. And as an an adult, I was able to have a much better relationship with my parents. My father and I played golf for many years here in Florida, and he was more understanding of who I was. We also shared many jokes, and I was able to shoot some priceless video of the two of them in their “natural setting”. I also wrote and produced a tribute song and video after my father passed away.
    One thing I can say for sure is that I Am glad that he didn’t take the Ryan Oneill approach and punch me in the mouth. Would have ruined the expensive orthodontics which my mother made sure I had.

  5. Being the youngest growing up in the same family as Deborah and Bruce, I recall (and likely still have) a letter written to me at summer camp when I was 13 yo and threatened to be sent home by the camp owners/ directors for cursing at the nasty counselor I had that summer, who had scolded me and then told on me for something she felt to be so terribly disrespectful ( I no longer remember what she had done that made me entitled to ‘put her in her place by cursing’, but I knew even then that it did not merit her reaction). The lengthy letter from daddy was written way above my head, heavily philosophical, and in part about the anti establishment/drug abusing youth of the 60’s who did not appreciate all that had been done for them growing up. During WW-II our father was a navigator in the US Aircorps, had dropped out of college where he had been taking night classes after working a full time day job so as to support his poor immigrant parents, sister and grandparents. He had enlisted as a private, risked his life at least once for his crew, and was honorably discharged as a Captain but refused any post war benefits despite serving for 3 years abroad and relinquishing his dream of becoming an attorney one day. He was a humble man who did not feel entitled to taking anything for his time in the service, including GI educational support (which he also felt too old for once he came home wanting to marry and start his own family). Perhaps Deborah and I both being 13 at the time when we had each ‘acted selfishly’ in his eyes was just coincidental…or perhaps not. His father was also just 13, when he was forced by his mother to leave his home in Russia and make his way alone with only ‘a bag of oranges’ to a port and hide on a ship bound for America. Maybe our father imagined that by 13 it was our duty to be as heroic as his dad had been (or as he became as a young boy/man himself) and certainly deeply appreciative of the middle class lives we were living. The letter he wrote to me at camp was filled with less rage than both of you had received, although I did sense his deep disappointment in me along with some compassion as he told me that ‘despite how much smarter I might sense myself to be than others, it was my duty to respect my elders and to keep those thoughts to myself’…..not something I was ever very good at as you both know!
    Deborah thank you for your thought provoking blog and for your response as well Bruce. While I did have the chance to meditate myself this morning, I never imagined this would be what your words brought me to be writing about tonight. Daddy was a deep and honorable man who while at times lacking what each of us may have needed from him as children, had little time to be a ‘child’ himself growing up and likely lacked the tools and the understanding of what we were freer to crave.

    with my love and compassion for daddy, mommy as well as all of us, and with gratitude for having you each in my life, especially as I miss them both very much now,

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