There was a time when I was really young, back when I’d been talking for a while, but I was still figuring out what a lot of common phrases and expressions meant and how they were used. I don’t even think I knew what sarcasm was yet, but here’s a story about one of my first discoveries about sarcasm. Let’s just say I was about six years old or so.
One afternoon my Father was working on the car in the driveway, a typical do-it-yourself moment involving scraped knuckles, grunts, grease, and an occasional swear word. I was there helping, which really meant I sat there playing with nuts and bolts and strange looking tools, and sometimes handing something my Father asked for if I he could explain well enough that I knew what he was talking about.
I think his hand slipped while turning a wrench or something like that, probably making him punch something in the engine compartment you shouldn’t punch. He barked something profane and the wrench dropped to the ground after clattering against various things in the engine compartment.
“You dropped something.” I said, not at all realizing I’d just left myself open to a sarcastic remark, in fact totally oblivious to the art of sarcasm. I was just noting what I’d observed.
“Yeah.” Dad grumbled, looked at his hand for injuries and then reached for the wrench underneath the car. “I did it on purpose.” he said with a sort of frustrated sarcasm, whatever that was. It was the first time I’d ever noticed the phrase ‘on purpose’. I’m not even sure I knew what the word ‘purpose’ even meant at that age. But I knew that my Father didn’t mean to drop the wrench and that he said he did it ‘on purpose’. He hadn’t realized that I had no idea what he meant by the expression and I’m sure he didn’t give it a thought. It was just a common, sarcastic reaction within a frustrating situation that we’ve all experienced a thousand times.
But what happened in my mind, somewhat briefly as you will see below, is that I remembered the expression “I did it on purpose” to mean that I did something I didn’t mean to do, and it happened with frustrating circumstances. In other words it meant “Whoops! I messed up something and the situation is frustrating. I did it on purpose.” Sounds completely logical to me at 6 years old if I’d never heard the expression before.
Some time later my family was sitting down at dinner one night and I accidentally bumped a glass of milk that spilled across the table and into my sister’s lap. She jumped up, squealed something I can’t remember and my Mom belted “Chris!” with surprise at what just happened. I calmly looked at my Mother and said plainly, “I did it on purpose.” There may have been a tone of pride in my voice as it was the first time I’d ever used the expression ‘on purpose’ before, and there was probably a touch of misplaced and totally misunderstood sarcasm in there too. Obviously what I meant to say and thought I was saying was that I did ‘by accident’, not ‘on purpose’.
Well even though I thought I was saying that I spilled the milk by accident, my Mother took what I said at face value and given that she had already had an extremely stressful day, and that I had gotten into trouble several times that day already (not uncommon), she snapped, slapping me across the face to which my response was something like “Mom!!!! I said I did it on purpose!!!” followed by indignant and confused crying, and then my Father told me to leave the dinner table and go to my room. Wasting food was also a mortal sin in my family, or to my Father anyway, so spilling a whole glass of milk across the table only made the situation worse. Up the stairs to my room I went, a crying confused six year old mess.
Pretty tragic, I know. Were it to happen today both my parents would surely be in prison and I would have become a ward of the state. But there is a silver lining to this story.
Obviously something was wrong, obviously I hadn’t really meant to spill the glass, and later that night my Mother talked with me about what had happened. She straightened me out with the whole ‘on purpose / by accident’ thing and she apologized for misunderstanding my little 6 year old faux pas. Thinking back, with my fuzzy memory, I think everything was cool after that.
What did I learn from this experience? I learned to watch the words I use. I learned that if I say the wrong thing in the wrong situation, bad things can happen. And I’m not even sure if reconciling that mistake at the time made much difference with what I learned. At such an impressionable age, that unconscious, unnoticed lesson can leave quite a mark. Many, many times in my life, as I am sure many of us have, I have felt a certain hesitancy, a twinge of fear or a moment of pause when I was about to express myself to others about something I was proud about. Was this the event that caused all that limiting fear of expressing myself with pride later on in life? No, probably not. But it did leave a mark. It certainly contributed to the programming, if you will, that protects me from perceived emotional distress.
How many opportunities in life did I miss because of that fear, that programming? How many times did I zig when I could have zagged and how could my life be different if I didn’t have that limiting belief about sharing myself with others? How has that event shaped my life in my past? What could I have accomplished otherwise without that fear? What if I could be president today if that had never happened? What if?
You know what? That doesn’t matter. None of that matters. It’s in the past. What matters is now, my perspective now and how that helps to shape my present and future now. Since I remembered back to that event that helped shape my life up until now, since I was able to consider the event for what it was and with the awareness that I have in the present, I have the ability to reshape my thinking. Whenever I want to share my ideas, my accomplishments, my self with others, there is far less fear getting in my way because I have uncovered that buried belief created by that event in my past and reconciled it with my much more rational self in the present. I have a richer understanding behind my behavior. In a sense I have reprogrammed myself. And while a piece of that fear may still exist, and it does because I can still feel it, at least I have the ability to see it coming and make a more conscious, more present choice about how to respond to opportunities of expression coming to me in my future.
How many events like this do you think you have in your past? How many misunderstood dramas are playing out in your subconscious, buried and forgotten but still directing your thinking and your emotions as if you were on autopilot? Ever feel as if you were running on autopilot, as if you were playing out your behavior literally due to a program you created in your childhood or at some other point in your life, but have no idea why you are acting like you are? You don’t have to be an automaton created by misguided lessons you taught yourself when you were younger. You have an out and that out is awareness. You have incredible power to reprogram yourself simply through self awareness. Awareness is the key to freedom from your own limiting programming.
So be aware. Practice awareness and know thyself in order to be a more intentional creator in your life. Thoughtwriting is one way to practice awareness but there are dozens of other modalities that can teach you how to be more aware of the nature of your Self. Whether it be traditional therapy, coaching, introspection, discussions with your family and friends, meditation, thought repatterning, matrix energetics, etc, etc, whatever. If you truly want to make a change in your life, and more importantly how you react to it, one of the most important keys is to practice some form of becoming more aware of yourself.