A few nights ago I was talking with a dear friend whom also has suffered a tremendous amount of trauma. The word “damaged” was brought up again. We have known each other for years. Trauma, pain, and hardship is not classist , no one is exempt . Our conversation was about relationships and the balance of family while working unconscionable hours during our careers. The million dollar question is how did our children become so heartless? Is it their generation ? We both are trying to gain some insight. I asked my friend to share her feelings on my blog.
“You’re too damaged!” She screamed into the phone,sobbing. Apparently, my adult child could no longer listen to my woes. I suppose I should not have been burdening her with them, but the last few years of my life have been utter hell,and -after suffering a nervous breakdown (complete with suicide attempt) three years ago– all I wanted was to hear the voice of someone who I knew loved me. I wasn’t looking for my adult child to solve my problems. I merely wanted compassion.
I needed that kind of compassion – the kind you cannot get from a therapist. I believe therapy is helpful, mind you, but your therapist listens because you pay them to do so. At the end of the day, what little they truly know of you and your life gets tucked away into a file drawer. They are not there to drive you to the ER, bring you a casserole when you’re sick and hungry and unable to cook for yourself, and help you laugh until you cry the pain away, then shift gears so you can cry until you laugh, bringing you full circle back to yourself. There is comfort in knowing one is loved.
I thought my adult child and I could share our sorrows and our joys. But the life experience and cultural influences that have shaped the Baby Boomer generation are far different than those that have shaped the Millennial generation (our children). Growing up, Baby Boomers fought for civil rights, exposed the ugly truth of the evils of the world of politics and big corporations, and struggled to improve our economic situation through education and a lot of hard work. We did it all to make our children’s lives easier – to give them what we had hoped to have growing up: freedom, gender equality, color-blindness, and unconditional love and support from our families. But, struggle is what shapes character because it is earned, and a life absent of hard struggles gives birth to a sense of entitlement.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath sheds light on the advantages of perceived disadvantages, and the disadvantages of perceived advantages. In it, he tells the story of a very successful Hollywood producer who came from very humble beginnings in the upper Midwest. As a mere child, this man made money by being bold and being the early bird who got the proverbial worm. Each year before the winter season, he would go door to door in his neighborhood and offer to shovel neighbors’ sidewalks and walkways for a price. After securing the business, he hired friends and other neighbor kids to do the work (which he supervised) for a wage that allowed him to make a tidy profit. He had a similar leaf-raking business.
But, as an extraordinarily wealthy adult, his children had no incentive to make something of themselves. And, how could he refuse to buy them the new car they wanted? Unlike his father who always scolded him to turn the lights off when leaving a room to reduce their electric bill, there was no economic need to support the denial of a new car to his own children – especially when their friends’ parents were all buying them new cars without blinking. To deny his children their new cars would only alienate them.
Our children, the Millennial generation, have no experiential context for understanding our struggles and our pain. We did everything we could to protect and nurture them, to ensure they had opportunities and material comforts. Such things became expected trappings of life, and we continued to give, give, give as they continued to expect, expect, expect. God forbid the feeding tube of our own making got pinched by life’s events. That’s when our children turn their backs on us, retaliate and sometimes even cause us harm. Sometimes our children bite the hands that fed them when the well runs dry. And, that well may be compromised of everything from material possessions and the almighty dollar, to our ability to be strong for them because we have become too broken from trauma to help anyone, not even ourselves.
It seems history is destined to repeat itself. In this fragile economy, will our adult children – or their own children, when they become adults – begin scolding their children for not turning off the lights when they leave the room? Will cable TV, Internet access and having the latest electronic gadgets become a thing of the past for their children’s generation? Will the cycle begin all over again, creating in our grandchildren and great-grandchildren the perceived disadvantage of poverty that produces an economy – bolstering advantage – that mother of all progress: invention born of necessity? Necessity offers other by – products that builds and strengthens families: appreciation and respect.
It’s the holidays, and during this time our thoughts turn to the warmth of family, joyfully sharing delicious meals and laughter together around the fire. Or, is that some advertisement or movie I’m recalling? Sadly, it isn’t my life, nor does that vignette represent the lives of some of my dearest friends – most of us Baby Boomers.
Here’s wishing comfort and peace to all who have suffering in their lives during this holiday season. And, know that someone out there loves and truly cares for you. They may not be family, as is everyone’s desire. They may be a friend who understands your own pain because they have lived through it. But, they do love you still.
Thank you for reading , and thank you my friend for sharing what we both are dealing with . I am blessed to have caring, compassionate friends.