Boy, did I just have fun writing this. Sweet to be relieved of it.
[Image not my copyright, but unknown.]
I realise that as I grew up I was not able to be at peace nor in joy with how and who I was. The fundamental me that was emerging was not OK. It had to be curbed and frightened into conformity.
Recently, I found myself in the oddest of situations.
I smoke, but only when outdoors, no secret to my friends. And, there may be some people who might say, “Oh! what a surprise. He seems so level headed and clear thinking. Why would he smoke?” I wish I knew the answer. I am exposed, and obviously not clear thinking enough. Do you feel the shame in there somewhere?
However, that ‘recently’ I was just referring to was being caught in the act by someone who I knew disapproved of the habit, and who was some good many years my senior and a university lecturer to criminal judges (good Lord, can this embarrassment get any worse?), and while standing outside his home (yes, it can). It threw me for a loop. I tossed the cigarette behind me and pretended it was never there. Ha? WTFH!
I was 15 years old, at the monastic public school I had been condemned to in England, caught in the act of smoking by my house master . . . and I did exactly what my father did when my mother used to catch him being just a little too interested in some female party guest whom he was dancing with, the artful dodge, the pretending it never happened, the whoops. This is what is called a character flaw. (Darwin might have called it a very clever survival strategy, if you can get it right.)
However, I was not so practiced as my father at ‘getting it right’, or perhaps my house master was not as tolerant as my mother, and alas, he also ignored the fact that it was indeed into Darwin’s ancestral home, turned school, that I had been banished at the beginning of my boarding school career at the age of 8, Elston Hall (the place and Darwin’s ideas must have rubbed on on me, surely).
Either way, a deeply solemn look and the promise of swift and painful consequences appeared on my house master’s face. My cigarette had been seen. Worse still, I had tried to hide my behaviour. Enough said.
Why would a grown man of 56, who for the most part has his wits about him and is at peace with who he is not and who is, suddenly revert to this juvenile, guilty behaviour?
Programming. Deep, easily triggered conditioning that never seems to want to go away. We are bound to repeat it. And, the kicker is, the very behaviours we exhibit are the same automatic behaviours our parents exhibited, and their parents exhibited, and so on, all along reacting to the same kinds of situations, often with shame and embarrassment. Each generation hopefully does a little bit of cleaning up of this unfortunate behaviour along the way—civilising, as it is called.
So, what do you do when you’re 56, a conscious smoker (ha!), caught inflagrante, embarrassed, and suddenly deeply aware of the whole sordid little story?
Tell the truth with the person or people involved and see if you can at least get a good laugh out of it. Or, post it on your blog, otherwise . . . the experience is kind of wasted.