I’ve been thinking about inverted relationships a lot; the trauma of having to parent your parents from a young age, of being forced into roles not of your choosing, before you’re ready for them, and before you know enough to ever think to say no. Children are curious by nature and we wander exuberantly, innocently into danger where we haven’t learnt it exists.
The first months and years of a person’s life are spent learning cause and effect (that it exists, and how it works, maybe not in that order), and grappling with the vector of time. I think we’re born knowing time moves in any and all directions, but our bodies are anchored to the current that runs from “past” to “future”. Our visible, tangible effect on the world, on other bodies, has a Direction in Particular: Past gives way to Present gives way to Future. We call this direction “forwards”. It can be a hard lesson. Anyway.
I look backwards a lot. It only makes sense, because I’ve also spent my life sending messages into the future. I remember as a small child so sweetly saving things I liked for future, “Big Girl” Me in hopes that whoever I would become would appreciate them even more. I remember finding a bunch of kid stuff–crafts and gifts and treasures, never opened–as a slightly older child and feeling the burn of embarrassment that I’d saved such babyish delights for myself, now having out grown them. What a waste. How stupid. What was wrong with me?
I was a hopeful little bean, and my timepunked generosity was also tinged with shame and the internalized message that who I was right then was not quite worthy. I had so much hope that I would become worthy. I would become as cool and pretty as the girls on the boxes of the storebought crafts I squirrelled away, and when that time came, and the stars aligned (I felt) I would do the crafts. Poor baby. I wish I’d somehow granted myself permission to just dig in back then. That’s what it was, I suppose: I was just waiting for permission to be granted to me, and still hopeful that somebody would notice my need or burning wish and come along and grant it. I never stopped waiting, even as my innocent hope was eroded. Nobody ever noticed.
To this day, I retain an inexhaustible hope somewhere deep in the pit of me that things will be better in that garden of possibility, the Future. I just need to get there. My relationship to my past and future selves is complicated, but more and more loving. I’ve promised hopeful baby me that one day soon, when I can get these paws on some, I will do the crafts I always dreamed of doing. What a strange mix of stunted, unpracticed skill and learn-by-watching adult autistic aptitude. I’ll never start out as good as I might have been if I hadn’t pushed my opportunities to play and make into the future; but I know child me will marvel at my generally-improved motor control and more complex ideas. I promise to let her shine through, and to express the childlike fumbling charm I held inside all these years. I want to finally give Baby Me her chance in the sun.
As bittersweet as my misguided, self-sacrificing childhood care for self may be, the more I think about it, the more I think little me was onto something. Not that I didn’t deserve the chance to play back then; I regret that I never felt worthy. But also in kicking things forward like I did, baby me has carved out space for herself in my present and future, where I can meet myself with greater awareness, skill, compassion. On hand it’s an expression of my emotional trauma, but on the other it’s one of the wisest, most elaborate shows of discipline and delayed gratification I’ve ever witnessed.
Like. I MARVEL at my child self for planning this. For somehow knowing this. For hoping so hard and so deep, and for knowing how to build a time capsule in my memory so that a later me would know to peer inside and pick her up–and that’s all I want to do now. I want to pick that wee babe up and cradle her in my arms (her own arms) and kiss her head and tell her how smart and brave and kind she is, and then make all the things I never did.
She had faith beyond faith in me, and I rise to it. I am held by it. I am humbled by it.
I was an emotionally orphaned child with no elders, so I created one out of myself. How???? It took such grace, which I doubt I have left in me now. But child me has an answer for that doubt: of course I have that grace in me, I’ve had it all along. It’s not the kind of thing that goes away, silly! When you are blessed by your elder you bow your head and accept the blessing, come whatever emotions may, even if you are confused and feel unworthy. It makes you humble, to feel unworthy while knowing better.
Sometimes I find I’ve found a way to close in on myself from all sides and I feel truly held.
All I can say is that I just felt little me kiss me on the head and smile. I feel her in my body, open, glowing, bright, serene and satisfied.
I am made of Love.