Like me, my son and my eldest daughter have a character of distinctive emotional ups and downs. We can be ecstatically happy or miserably unhappy. There is an in between, of course, but we do have a tendency to experience emotions that feel like they are too big for who we are.
On top of that we are very sensitive to moods and atmospheres. My five-year-old daughter sometimes feels uncomfortable with people ‘because of their voices’. In her perception, people have beautiful or not-so-beautiful voices. In the past few months, for instance, she has been reluctant to go to school because her teachers this year ‘do not have beautiful voices’. While I did realise it is not so much the voices as what they express, I only recently came to understand that she actually literally means voices. Just not the ‘real’ voices of people, but their inner voices.
My son, in puberty, is feeling terribly lonely at times. I recognise it so well, that searching for meaning and purpose in life. And the fear that perhaps there is none. The knowing that you exist for a reason, that you have a mission, but not where you have to look for it and fearing that perhaps you are wrong, it is all useless.
Today I am still not sure of my meaning, my purpose, but I am slowly starting to explore the possibilities. I have realised that, in point of fact, it does not really matter if my existence has a true meaning or purpose. What does matter is that I make sure it has significance to me. It does not matter what others think of me – all that really matters is what I think of me. Because I have found that no one can judge me more harshly than I do myself. And if I have no love and compassion for myself, then who will?
Hoping that I can help him avoid years (or decades, in my case) of internal struggle, I am now trying to find a way to explain this to my son. And in a more simple way, to my daughter. How can they shield themselves from what others think and feel? How can I help them understand that they are not their emotions, they have emotions and as such they have a certain extent of control with regard to how they feel? And how can I reassure them that their lives always have meaning even if just because they matter as uniquely individual beings that can never be replaced or recreated?
The world, and the people in it, will never be as beautiful or kind as they would like it to be. We can try to make it a better place but what really matters for us as individual beings is the place we make in it for ourselves.
The fact that my children are gifted (there, I said it) makes them wonderful creatures capable of soaring to incredible heights. But like every child, they need proper nurturing so that they learn to spread their wings and turn towards the light. And I can only hope that I am the right person to teach them how to fly.