When it comes to deprivation, I like to believe I know a thing or two. Is that too bold to say? Maybe.
I once shared a phone call with my sister. I don’t remember much of the conversation, except to say that it was a depressing one. There was a time when most of my conversations were depressing. I was a very depressing individual back then. The bulk of the conversation isn’t important, not here at least. All you need to know is I was morose over lost time, time I had firmly believed was stolen from us. “They took that from us,” I said. Years of separation from your twin leaves something to be wanted, an incomplete bond it felt at the time.
I’m not here to complain about the time I lost growing up with my sister. I have no intention of boring you with the tale of how my siblings and I were ripped from each other, suddenly becoming three individual only-children. I promise I won’t go into sad stories of homelessness, hunger, or poverty. I don’t think you want to know. I didn’t want to know, which is why I drank as much as I did – but you’re not here for that story either. I thought maybe we could talk about the mind, and maybe about dichotomies. How does that sound? Let me know at any moment if you want me to stop.
My mother’s favorite television show was Friends. I’ve seen my fair share of episodes. I can see why she liked it. My show of choice is newer. I’ve seen every single episode of Once Upon A Time. I even went back and starting watching from the beginning all over again. What else am I to do while I’m waiting months on end for a new episode. Kitsis and Horowitz: Please write faster. My favorite character? That’s a tough question, funny you should ask. I don’t think I favor any one in particular, but I do see myself sharing a few things in common with Rumplestiltskin. I think any good character is relatable in some way, though, so I would say I have no favorite. But since you asked, let’s focus on Regina, the HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge).
What could I possibly have in common with Regina? I don’t perform magic, but that depends on who you ask. I don’t have a son, and that doesn’t depend on who you ask. I don’t have an affinity for tending to apple trees, and I’ve never tried to kill my parents. On the surface it seems that we are nothing alike, I suppose.
The Buddha is held responsible for once saying something along the lines of: “All that we are is the result of all we have thought.” That’s curious, isn’t it? Sounds kind of like some New Age load of hooey, doesn’t it? But here we are dwelling on the surface of things again.
The Buddha also is supposed to have said: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Seeing as how I took a lot of resentment out on the bottle, in a way this ancient saying was oddly prophetic in my history. Funny how that works.
If you’re not familiar with Once Upon A Time, I may have already lost you. I don’t have a map to help you find your way back, so I do hope you’ve stuck around. Allow me to explain, briefly. Regina (a.k.a. “The Evil Queen”) is the adversary of Snow White, you know the whole poison apple, heart in a box thing. Anyway, in this new take on the tale, the reason for the Queen’s hatred of the princess is the death of Regina’s beloved, Daniel. Let’s make a long story short: As a child, Snow White failed to keep the secret that Regina was having an affair with her stable boy quasi true love. As consequence, Regina’s mother ripped out Daniel’s heart and crushed it in front of Regina so that Regina’s arranged marriage with the King (Snow White’s father) would go on uncompromised. With me so far? Good.
We know the rest of the story. Regina hires a hunstman to rip out Snow’s heart, is betrayed by said hunstman, and (in this version of the story) enacts and curse after a lifetime of unsuccessfully trying to destroy Snow White’s happiness. Well holy shit. Hell hath no fury after all.
What’s all this got to do with me? Well, only a small thing or two. Like Regina, I blamed the unfortunate (as I saw them) events of my adolescent years upon a single act of betrayal. With blame to go around everywhere, the whole finding the object of my hatred deal became a very confusing and stressful matter. What really matters is the desire to apportion blame itself. I won’t pretend that I was all wrong about what had happened and it turned out everything was just a horrible misunderstanding. Oh no, people did what they did sure enough. Things happened because of that, and I resented whoever I found responsible. From that resentment was born a mindset of deprivation. (hint hint. That’s our vocabulary word for the day).
(1) to become aware of, know, or identify by means of the senses:
(2) to recognize, discern, envision, or understand:
I had taken the evidence of my senses and developed the perception that I had been deprived of what was rightfully mine. A normal childhood growing up with my beloved siblings was my birthright, my entitlement. As I grew in years, I carried this perception with me, I clung to my sense of deprivation. It was the source of my right to blame those who had taken from me. Remember the thing about the poison? Remember the thing about becoming our thoughts?
I’ve gone hungry, been homeless (like the real kind when you’re not sure where you’re going to sleep or if you’ll be sleeping today where you did tomorrow), chosen between paying debts and filling my stomach. And at each downturn of my fortune, I felt the familiar tug of deprivation. “Look at all these other people with their fancy cars and their nice houses and their full pantries. They’ve had everything handed to them. They’ll never know what I’ve known. They’ll never be strong like me.” I had it bad.
A pattern began to emerge. I felt deprived all the time. When I saw something good, I felt deprived. When I tasted something good, I knew it wouldn’t last and I felt deprived. When someone did something kind for me, I took it as pity and felt deprived. I began expecting this sense of deprivation and so I created it everywhere I went, my choices being the result of a highly trained mindset, leading to consequences that served to lend credibility to that mindset. I always did like to be right.
So what happened? That’s the question right? Where is this all leading? Why does it matter?
I used to like the phrase, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’.” There is a ‘me’, but that requires distortion. Similarly, there is no “you” in “deprive.” There is an “I,” and that requires no distortion. The only finger pointed is the one pointing to the self. Yes, I do feel quite clever, thank you very much.
Point being, anything can happen at any moment. Anyone you love or hate could do anything at any time they choose. Therein lies the beauty and danger of free-will. The real potential for danger lies not in what can be done to us but what we can do to ourselves, or rather what we believe has been done to us. Perception is everything. It dictates what conclusions we make of our sensory experiences, therein determining what we believe of the world around us. Going further down this train of thought, perception then determines what choices we deem appropriate and how we view the resulting consequences.
What are you getting at?! You’ve been patient, and we’re at the end here.
What I’m getting at is that no one can deprive you of anything. The only one who can deprive you of anything is yourself.
But surely you didn’t want to be homeless and hungry and poor? Well, no, of course not. But a destructive perception is like a parasite; it infects everything and affects everything. And one day I finally realized that over the years none of the people I wanted to hurt were suffering; only me.
Now one quick note about dichotomies since I promised:
I believe that things come in pairs; night and day, left and right, forward and back. The thing about opposites is that they’re not so much opposed as they are complementary. Hear me out on this.
In Buddhist traditions, – since we’ve already dragged the Buddha into this – there are two main forces that lead to suffering: craving and aversion. We won’t go into detail, but think for a moment of deprivation and entitlement. If one did not feel entitled, one would never feel deprived. The two concepts do not oppose one another as much as they rely on each other for completion. Understanding this simple truth marked a drastic shift in my perception, and this change in perception created a change in my life.
Do yourself a favor. Learn from me.
All images retrieved from Google Image Search
All definitions extracted from Dictionary.com