Welcome to A Life Examined

What is the examined life? A life worth living! As I look at the road ahead, I take all the baggage from the past and use it as experience - the pain and the passion, the sorrow and the joy - allowing it to carve wisdom into my mind and hope into my spirit.
There is no experience that can't be useful to me at some point in my life. There is no lesson learned that cannot make a contribution to the future.
A tiny drop of water is a part of the ocean. A tiny speck in the night sky is a ginormous star in the distance. It all depends on perspective.
So, this examined life is to offer reflections in the hope of discussing things which are of value to myself and to others.
Love, Sarah

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Hopeful Heart with Too Much Too Soon - warning: this post is not totally optimistic

One key to ease in blogging, I'm convinced, is knowing in advance of a deadline what you want to write about. I should have chosen a title last week but I had too many ideas and hadn't settled on one. Now, the deadline has arrived and I've got even more ideas... but I've whittled it all down to one topic: Hopeful Heart.

When I think of hope I think it belongs most to Youth. Children haven't had enough experience to look beyond the moment and we grown-ups are in the process of either realizing our hopes or revising them. So, I really think 'hope' is a key to growing from childhood into adulthood with its freedoms and its responsibilities and (especially) its anticipation of the future.

It really concerns me that so many of our youth seem to be suffering from a loss of hope at the time in their lives when the world is supposed to be their 'oyster' and the realization of dreams and ambitions are expected to come forth in only a matter of time.

Today more than ever before youth seem to be struggling with Mental Health. While prosperity in the West is abundant (in spite of economic meltdown) and freedom has been hard fought and won, why are so many kids so full of despair?

Since the 1960's there has been an explosion in the development of human rights, women's lib and sexual freedom. But as with any explosion there is fall-out. I think that although it's taken a couple of generations, the fallout is being revealed now. The sexual revolution is revealing negative side affects on kids today. We see it in the rising rates of depression, despair and suicide.

What do we value most in our lives? I reckon we spend money on education, time on careers but it is in our relationships that we find our greatest meaning and sense of purpose. And while adolescents and young adults are developing their self image, it is their relationships that help to shape this image.

Some peer relationships that kids engage in are just too demanding or sophisticated for their level of emotional experience or capacity. I think a real problem arises when sexual intimacy accompanies emotional intimacy when emotional maturity is still at a developmental stage... some relationships are just too much to handle. When a completely intimate relationship ends, the youth is exposed to a bitter reality that romance, intimacy may not be all that is expected. This disillusionment is, for some, too much to handle and some of these kids sink into despair. Though the moral freedom of the day does not provoke shame, the emotional intensity of the relationship, and of its demise, creates a sense of inadequacy or disappointment (or both) that then pervades the psyche of the youth.

I am linking the freedom and encouragement kids experience in expressing their sexual freedom to their lack of emotional readiness and in doing the addition I come up with this equation:
youth + emotional intimacy + sexual intimacy = disillusionment + loss of hope.

Now of course there is a lot to life outside of intimate relationship to look forward to in our lives. And there are a lot of other circumstances that seem to thwart a young person's ambitions these days, which can certainly contribute to a loss of hope in their future.

But I don't believe that anything matters more to us, inherently, than our need for meaningful and enduring relationships.

It says somewhere in the Bible: 'hope deferred makes the heart sick'. I get that! When we feel hopeless, lethargy sets in: 'What's the point of trying if there's no hope of success?' This state of mind is so opposite to the resiliency, enthusiasm and ambition that comes naturally to the young. And when deep emotional commitment and sexual intimacy bring the development of a deeply personal relationship that is intense and thrilling it's hard not to get drawn in. But with no moral implication and little literature about the emotional demands of an intimate relationship, what is to hold a person back?

It doesn't seem as though enough thought was given to the long term consequences of the sexual revolution. As a change in attitude toward premarital sex was demanded in our culture, a lot more seems to have been at stake than getting rid of restrictions and shame.

When I was training for Shakespearean Theatre I was told: "If there's a word or an expression you don't understand, say it louder!" Apparently, emphasis creates a greater sense of importance and hides the fact you don't know what you're talking about. That may be the case for Shakespearean acting and in fact, the theory shouldn't surprise, because it seems to be what's been running our society for a number of decades. Throughout the ages battles have been fought and won to make our society better for all. BUT sometimes it has simply been the loudest and strongest who have won the war with little awareness of the long term affects on future generations. Shame used to be a curse that many youth suffered because they made decisions that didn't fit society's "respectable norm". It is no longer shameful to be pregnant out of marriage or to live together rather than to marry, for example. But now, instead of shame, I believe too many youth have launched into intensely intimate relationships which have proven to be 'too much too soon'. Sometimes the consequences have been dire.

I would love to see kids encouraged to wait for intimacy - not because it's morally wrong so much as because it is detrimental to their personal development. Their bodies are clearly ready for intimacy, their hearts are drawn, but their minds - in so many cases - just aren't ready.

When I was in my twenties I was less mature emotionally than I was intellectually or physically, but of course I didn't know that. I was too young for my first intimate relationship... and I entered into a poor marriage because I didn't want to let go! That first marriage ended in divorce and the despair was intense for years. It affected not only subsequent relationships but my own self image as well. Emotional cuts healed but the scars went deep. Now when I see it happening in others, I grieve for them.

I haven't a solution to offer. And I'll carry on writing about 'Heart' matters next time. But in the meantime I'll be thinking about young people I know who have lost a part of their identity or their vitality or their hope to a relationship that was far too demanding for their time of life.

This post is the first of a series of 'Heart' posts... next time I will post about the Quiet Heart - to be posted two weeks from today on 31st January. I hope it will be a peaceful way to ring out the first month of the year.
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