Wednesday, June 20, 2012

7 and Counting!

Well, it's been a while. I haven't posted here since my last birthday a year ago. I hope that today's entry will be my return to blogging. I have much to tell you.

This birthday feels different somehow. Like some sort of pivotal turning point in my life. I joked with some friends that this is the year I decide to permanently fix my age at 19 but, all jokes aside, 19 was a crappy time in my life. So was 25. So was 30. But now, at age 38, life is good. I am happy to be 38.

Having now been out of the Jehovah's Witnesses for seven years, I feel quietly content with how far I've come. The constant grind to assimilate into the post-cult world, the obsessive desire for knowledge, the ever-present anxiety associated with what once was has dissipated greatly. Perhaps it is a function of age that things automatically begin falling into perspective or maybe it is the great gift of a declining memory that I am no longer able to recall as much of what happened, or at least why it was all so terrible. Age has a way of blunting the edges of the past and muting the intensity of all that came before. And for that I am grateful.

As you know, I have counted my birthdays according to when I left the JW's, so I am 7 this year. Let's see how I measure up against the developmental stages for a 7 year old. My comments are in red.

Motor Development

Hand-eye coordination is well developed. Playing all those first-person shooter games has finally paid off!

Has good balance. I'm fine as long as I'm not wearing heels. Tall Penguins are not made for heels.

Can execute simple gymnastic movements, such as somersaults.

Yes, that's right, I just posted a Culture Club video. I'm cool like that. 

Language and Thinking Development

Uses a vocabulary of several thousand words. Several thousand?! Wahoo! 

Demonstrates a longer attention span. Thanks be to Adderall. 

Uses serious, logical thinking; is thoughtful and reflective. I can now tell my Ad Hominems from my Straw Mans. 

Able to understand reasoning and make the right decisions. Getting there. 

Can tell time; knows the days, months, and seasons. To everything, turn. 

Can describe points of similarity between two objects. (Or people.) I have always liked the word 'kindred'. I remember first encountering the word while reading Anne of Green Gables. It may even have been at age 7 that I read that book for the first time. It became one of my faves.

Kindred is most often associated with having a similar biological origin, of being of the same family. But the orphan Miss Anne Shirley taught me that kindred can apply to those of similar mind that you choose to attach yourselves to; the family you make for yourself out of friends and community. In anticipation of meeting Diana Barry, who shall become her best friend, Anne asks:

"A bosom friend--an intimate friend, you know--a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I've dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it's possible?"

I have been quite fortunate since leaving the JWs to have found some 'kindred spirits' to share my life with. I have seen that family can extend beyond blood and that choosing my family has brought me into contact with some amazing people.

Begins to grasp that letters represent the sounds that form words. Hooked on Phonics worked for me!

Able to solve more complex problems. Fortunately, xkcd helps me with all the important ones.

Individual learning style becomes more clear-cut. I really do see this happening. I'm very much someone who learns by reading and writing. I have a rather difficult time listening. I have been training myself to listen better by adding podcasts and audiobooks to my morning walk playlist. It's slow but I'm hoping I can modify this because I intend to take a University level class this Fall. That's right, the Penguin is returning to the classroom. Gonna dip my toe in the water and see how it feels to listen to someone give a lecture that isn't about God, eternal destruction and other fairy tales of epic proportion. I surmise it shall feel pretty damn good. 

Social and Emotional Development

Before I get into these skills, I want to make a comment about my general social and emotional development. I have suffered from a significant amount of social and general anxiety most of my life. Looking at the list below, it almost feels like much of my development may have gotten stuck at this stage. It was at this age that our family officially entered into the JW life full swing. I suspect that the year ahead will bring me a continuing sense of emotional liberty and calm and I will finally be able to move beyond these 7 year old tendencies. 

Desires to be perfect and is quite self-critical. I have been exploring the concepts of perfectionism vs. excellence and have found myself definitely moving towards the latter over the former. It's about damn time! (Yes, that was a little self-criticism. Gotta keep it real.)

Worries more; may have low self-confidence. Actually, I'm worrying less and feel more confident than I have in the past two decades. I may be 7 but I am also 38 and there is a distinct beauty to entering mid-life. Most of what I once worried about no longer matters. Or matters less. And who I am in any given moment is usually good enough. The circle of those whose opinion matters to me is smaller than ever. Most of the time, what others think of me is really none of my business. And sometimes, even what I think of me is none of my business. One thing about learning critical thinking skills is you realize that even your perceptions of self need to be questioned and evaluated according to evidence. 

Tends to complain; has strong emotional reactions. Workin' on it. 

Understands the difference between right and wrong. Shedding the dogmatic narrative about right and wrong I was raised with has allowed me to design my own set of principles to live by. This has required much careful research, thought and consideration. It is a work in progress and requires intense diligence, but I am happy with the framework for life I'm creating. 

Takes direction well; needs punishment only rarely. *Evil Penguin smiles her evil smile* 

Avoids and withdraws from adults. I have been exploring the concepts of introversion and extroversion and where I fall on that spectrum. I suspect that I will always have a tendency to withdraw from people.  I enjoy solitude. While social anxiety is not the reason I withdraw anymore, it is still my desire to have time away from people to contemplate, read and write. I cherish my introversion as a fundamental part of my temperament.

Is a better loser and less likely to place blame. I'm not a fan of the word blame. I prefer the word responsibility. I'm working towards placing responsibility where it lies, whether with myself or someone else or chalking it up to the randomness of life. But blame is useless. It is disempowering for everyone involved and precludes resolution. 

Waits for her turn in activities. Hmm...well, my weekly Games Nite crew would be the best judge of that. I do my best to be patient, but I'm also highly competitive, so there's likely to be moments where I will Penguin Poke ya for taking too long. 

Starts to feel guilt and shame. This is definitely one spot where it's very apparent I got stuck at this point in development. Guilt and shame have been my constant companions through much of my life. But they're really sucky companions and I refuse to be friends anymore.
I find the tips on parenting a 7-year-old quite interesting and shall rely on my circle of friends to help me out with these over the next year.

"This is a time of fragile self-esteem, so offer frequent encouragement and positive feedback. Help ease the tendency for self-criticism by stressing what he's learned rather than how the final product looks. Be patient and understanding of volatile emotions and moods. Take advantage of his eagerness to learn by asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions, doing puzzles, and playing thinking games. Initiate discussions about right vs. wrong. Provide opportunities for independent decision-making."

Well, there you have it. 38 going on 7. I expect the year ahead to be one unlike any other I've had yet in this life. Older, wiser and much contenter, I see many great things on the horizon. And I shall have you join me more along the way. There is much to discuss.

tall penguin