Rebel Without a Cause

Oh boy, my mom had some crazy stories about me as a young child. I chose to view these tales as exaggerations or half-truths. After all, I didn’t own a “way-back machine*”. There were only my unreliable memories. So it is impossible to confirm the veracity of her accounts due to a lack of credible witnesses. But isn’t that what makes family lore and legend so provocative?

But I endeavor to know myself and believe life experience shapes identity and behavior. This is counterbalanced by another belief that behavior and identity are also designed into our factory wiring. It is the innate force that arrives alongside our screaming entrance into this world. Call it personality, if you wish.

Mom’s stories started to make sense when viewed through the lens of current understanding. Perhaps these erratic behaviors foreshadowed lifetime patterns. From this perspective, my mom might have been telling some truth. It is not always pretty and the journey of self-exploration does contain some hazards. From a meta-cognitive perspective this mess is the symbolic leftovers of our personal sausage-making.

According to mom, I was off the scale with willfulness. I was also completely nonverbal. Logic, reasoning, and threats were off the table. The poor woman had to either pull me toward, or from, what I was supposed to be doing/not doing. At home this was tedious. In public it was embarrassing. This was the era when Dr. Spock preached reasoning and understanding. Dragging a silent, writhing kid around a department store was bad form. It was definitely in violation of Spock’s gentle edicts.

It turns out that independence – seeking is one of my core values. This set off a power struggle between two epic wills. Neither side could make a case because one participant was nonverbal. Dialogue and argument were removed from the equation. This interferes with the all the rules, written or unwritten, upholding the parent-child compact.

Essentially, I was rebelling. Setting my heels was one form of expression. Another was “acting out”. I was a breaker of things, a hitter, a biter, and a surly observer of our family life. No one could unlock the code. On the spectrum of misbehavior, I was well past the classification of “little rascal”. It was no surprise that affection and attention were not showered upon me. I remained silent.

It kind of worked out. Being independent also meant being an outlier. Just enough people found this intriguing. Eventually little communities of like-minded people would gather. Ideas about books, society, and nature were exchanged. This fostered a form of thinking that placed a high value on independence. It opened up a whole systems perspective. Some people even thought I was smart.

I could think big. But I still didn’t like being told what to do. Essential connection with others never quite bonded. This led me to wonder whether my best life was the one playing out inside my head. Here, Ideas were rich and language was vivid. Somewhere between Neo-cortex and mouth it was all reduced. Perhaps I should have been a lighthouse keeper.

Listening to the river outside the window, I can marvel at the strange symmetry of life. Once again, I am becoming mute. At least I understand why. My never-ending quest for independence is taking a strange turn. Living 24/7 In a wheelchair creates a heavy independence on others. Is not the path I would’ve chosen. But it is the path that I am on.

My life will once again be internal. The jagged edges are finally coming together and I am ready to transition into the quiet. It would be great to share all this with my mom. She didn’t need Dr. Spock after all. I just needed to figure a few things out.

(*) this is an obscure reference to the greatest show ever: “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”. A leading character, a brainy dog named Mr. Sherman, traveled through time on his “way-back machine”. You probably had to be there.

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