On Mistakes, Memories and Introversion  

One of the lines that struck me from the season finale of Westworld, was spoken by Bernard to Maeve: “How can you learn from your mistakes, if you don’t remember them?

Though some memories are better totally forgotten, these actually have contributed to our present selves. The “we” that we know is a product of all the experiences we have been through and our memories of them.

I think I have an earlier post on a similar theme, but I like musing on this idea: that awareness and understanding and acceptance of our past – all the good and the bad – help us deal with our present selves. I had some very sad experiences as a child, and even sadder and painful experiences as an adult, but I acknowledge that those same experiences have helped shape a more confident, wiser and stronger ME.

In my early twenties, I was made aware of certain patterns in my behavior towards certain people and circumstances. I would have the same problems, dilemmas over and over again. Same story, different people that I was unhappy with  and different settings. It took me a while to see that I was following a pattern. Thankfully I was patient enough with myself and had the enthusiasm to write in my journal my thoughts and feelings during this very confusing period of my life. My journals have been a great help in my journey through self-awareness and self-acceptance. My memories have taught me how to handle my emotions better, and how to prevent myself from getting into an unhealthy pattern of behavior of unnecessarily feeling hurt by other people who may or may not have the intention to hurt me.

My memories have helped me narrow down my list of trusted friends. My memories remind me of the kind of people and situations I have to avoid to have some peace within, because it is true –one can be kind to everybody, but one can’t possibly have everyone as a friend. It may sound like I have built a wall around me, and that it’s not a good thing. I beg to differ though. I think we need walls to protect ourselves, but the walls have to have a door where we can let certain people in; and certainly with age, I feel this works for me. I do not feel the need to meet with so many people and have more “friends”. I do not get energized going to parties and making small talk with people who, just like me, are merely being polite. It’s exhausting. (But yes, once in a while, necessary which is why I socialize once or twice a month.)

However I enjoy being among my family and a handful of people I call friends, with whom I don’t have to be merely polite, but be able to show not only the loving and caring me, but also the silly, goofy me. Then I can laugh. And the laughter is real.

I recognize the changes I have gone through from being introverted as a child, extroverted as a teenager and twenty-something, and introverted again as an adult. This is quite common, I guess, as a number of people online have asked if people become more introverted with age.

The shift to introversion may be a result of the experiences older people have had and their memories of them. The mistakes they made in their lives somehow make them build a wall around themselves, not to hide themselves, but to let only a few people in – the ones they think are worth keeping. And with the wall too, they get to have more time for themselves and introspect and assess their lives.

I agree with Bernard, we should remember our mistakes. We should have memories. And we should be mindful of them. Learn from them. Or we risk making the same mistakes we did in our youth,trapped in a looped narrative and not even knowing it. That is just sad.

 

I wrote this in December 2016. I don’t remember why I didn’t post this though. Perhaps later I will re-read this and realize why I didn’t and then take it down. Lol. I’m looking forward to the next season of WW. But first, Game of Thrones! 

Easter Thoughts on “The Young Pope”

Photo credit

          Even if you are not Catholic but like stories that are character/theme-driven and thought-provoking and makes you pause and reassess your faith or values or both, then you would probably like this TV series.

          I agreed with this CNN review of The Young Pope when I watched the first half of the first season. I thought the development was too slow, and it was almost painful to watch. But my friend was certain I would like it (and you have to trust your friends, right?) Indeed it turned out to be one of the few TV series that I truly enjoyed not because it’s entertaining (I don’t find it entertaining) but because it has a cathartic effect on me as a viewer (me being raised Catholic, a woman and mother). I find the dialogue quite well-written and added to the picturesque shots of the Vatican, the show seemed to me like a literary novel with sound and imagery.

This is perhaps the only TV series that made me grab the tissue so many times in its last 4 episodes, not because it is sentimental but because the characters, finally fully developed in the latter half of the season, are shown to be all broken people who try to be whole. What truly resonates with me is the mother-child motif which is central to the story. (As a mother who works in another country and only gets to embrace her son 2-3 days a month, I am easily moved by scenes of children missing their parents, their feeling of being abandoned, unloved.) The feeling of being abandoned, of being unloved by the very people you expect to love you because they brought you into this world, is ever present in the young pope.

Watching this show where characters deal with memories of their painful childhood, infertility, broken dreams, faith crisis, etc. – all part of being human, can purge a viewer of the pain and pity and fear that these sufferings evoke. That is what it did to me anyway, not because I went through all of these things myself (I didn’t), but as the characters are fully developed, there is empathy for what they have been through; and, I may not like what they did but understand how and why they became who they are.

         (Spoiler alert: Stop reading if you don’t want to know details of the show!)

This show also makes use of dichotomies, the ones most obvious to me are the following:

Free versus Determined
Cardinal Gutierrez and Cardinal Kurtwell were both abused as a child, but their respective responses to the abuse were quite different. Both are homosexuals, but Gutierrez is strongly against sexual abuse whereas Kurtwell insists that what he has become (preying on the powerless, especially young men) is a result of the abuse he suffered as a child. The Pope praised Gutierrez for turning his fear into anger and becoming an advocate for victims of abuse.

What this dichotomy made me think is the idea of free will and determinism. Are we truly free to steer our lives into a particular direction, like Gutierrez did, choosing NOT to be an abuser like Kurtwell, but defending those who are being abused as he once was?

One may say Kurtwell was simply making the abuse he suffered as a child as an excuse for what he really wanted to do as an adult – abusing young men. But then again, how much of what we do is dictated by our inner desire, and how much of this desire is brought about by the many different factors that influence our everyday lives?

Will a child born into a violent family but grew up with a loving and gentle adoptive family become violent as well? Nobody knows for sure because there are other factors that will determine his personality later on, one of which is genetics.

And then there’s the brain. (Please click on the link to understand what I mean.)

Old versus young
The title is deceiving. The pope may be young but he feels and sees himself as old. In one scene, he refers to Sofia as being one of the young people, to which Sofia replies that they are the same age. Yet the Pope tells her, “We used to be the same age.” As he is now the Father of millions of Catholics, his “age” accelerated with the many responsibilities that go with being pope.

The Pope also adheres to the old practices of the old church when the Roman Catholic Church exerted enormous influence in people’s daily lives. (Not unlike Trump, he’s willing to build a new and stronger wall to keep out those who do not agree with him.)

In his last conversation with his friend Cardinal Dusolier who asked him, “When are you gonna grow up?” the Pope answered, “Never. A priest never grows up because he can never become a father. He will always be a son.” Later when Dusolier expressed his desire to go back to Honduras because he could no longer bear being in the Vatican after a young man who had wanted to become a priest jumped to his death from the very spot where they were standing because the Pope’s new directive disqualified him from entering the seminary, the Pope answered him in words that may seem very heartless, insensitive but to me are very reasonable and so true: “If you give up now, now that you’re faced with the burden of responsibility and your own guilty conscience, when will you ever grow up?”

What does being grown up mean? Does it mean pretending not to be hurt by the painful past? Or does it mean acknowledging that same painful past while facing the present with all its challenges?

Imagination versus Reality
In his conversation with the Prime Minister, the Pope mocked the Prime Minister who had just given him statistics (reality) on the unpopularity of the church (particularly the Pope) and his (the Prime Minister’s) growing popularity among the Italians. He said the PM lacked imagination of which he (the Pope) and God have so much.
To me what best exhibits this dichotomy is the story between Lenny (before he became a priest) and the young woman he met in California. They spent a week together, and he had a wonderful time with her. The young woman told him he could touch her legs, but he never did. Yet the very fact that he didn’t, made this non-event even more firmly implanted in his memory. If he had touched her legs, most likely he would have forgotten whatever happened between them before that “event”! But because he didn’t, the scene is like frozen in his memory (think: Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn!)

Imagination is more powerful than reality.

Lost versus Found
In an unsent letter to the young woman he met in California, Lenny recalled the time the young woman told him he could touch her legs, but he didn’t and wrote, “There, my love, is love lost…And you shining gleam of my misspent youth, did you lose or did you find?”

The Pope, his childhood friend Cardinal Dusolier, Sister Mary were all orphans, abandoned by their parents. Did their parents lose them? Did they lose their parents? Or did they find each other and became, the three of them, a family?
          Perhaps when we lose something or someone, we only have to look and realize that something or someone else has found us.

Happy Easter!

the young pope

Of Exciting Beginnings and Boring Endings

Mad Men

Dr. Faye Miller of “Mad Men”

Photo Source

“Mad Men: Tomorrowland (#4.13)” (2010)

Don Draper: I met somebody and… we’re engaged.
Faye Miller: Are you kidding me?
Don Draper: I know, I know. It’s a surprise. It was for me, too.
Faye Miller: Jesus. Who is she?
Don Draper: What’s the difference? I fell in love. I didn’t mean for this to happen. You’ve been very important to me.
Faye Miller: So you’re not going to put an ad in the “New York Times” saying you never liked me?
Don Draper: Faye.
Faye Miller: Well, I hope you’re very happy. And I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things. 

Quote Source: http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0303746/quotes

Two totally unrelated happenings I was a witness to today reminded me of this line from Faye. In fact I have never forgotten this line ever since I heard it because I think in relationships, everyone is guilty of this. Well, perhaps not everyone, but most people.

This morning in a restaurant, I sat at a table for two, and next to mine was a table for six and there sat a septuagenarian-looking couple. Instead of sitting directly across from each other or next to each other, they sat diagonally opposite each other, directly facing an empty seat. And they were just eating. In silence. Companionable silence, perhaps, but they seemed lost in their own thoughts. Only one time did the woman say something about the food without even looking at the man, and I just heard the man make a sound like “hmm.”

This scene was in sharp contrast to the text messages I was receiving from my friend, who has met somebody new whom he says he’s not interested in romantically, but who he cannot stop talking about. His excitement over a new person he has met (and this has happened several times in the few years I’ve known him) amuses me. I enjoy observing his reaction and understanding how men think, and reminiscing the times I, too, got excited about meeting somebody new.

When you meet somebody new that you like, you cannot stop thinking about them and getting in touch with them and telling your family, friends, and anyone who’s willing to listen, about how wonderful/cool/nice they are. To me, it’s like being in high school all over again, where every word that’s spoken (now, texted or posted on social media) by said person seems to be directed at you or is related to your “friendship”; every gesture or action seems to be a code you have to decipher (when, really, there is no hidden meaning whatsoever.)

Dr. Faye Miller, being a psychologist, must know that Don’s behavior or preference for beginnings is all too common. But knowledge does not equal acceptance, especially when that knowledge hurts our feelings.

I like exciting beginnings, but I can’t bear boring endings. I don’t like how after a few weeks of “friendship”, your “friend” acts like you don’t know each other. It’s something I experienced in my youth, and I often hear from young friends who ask “Why? What happened? What did I do?” Sigh. (It’s what you didn’t do.)

One thing I’m grateful for, being in my 40’s, is the wisdom to see through exciting beginnings. Most of them don’t last. But one can work on it, I guess. They don’t have to have a boring ending. I know I wouldn’t want my husband and I to end up not looking at each other anymore, or worse, not talking. After 9 years, we still talk a lot about the things we both are interested in, and laugh at ourselves and at each other in a loving way.

I would not trade that for an exciting beginning that has an uncertain ending.

May you always have exciting beginnings that won’t have boring endings! 🙂