Was it the first time you heard the whisper of death creep into your wake?
Did you lose yours upon seeing illness?
Or was it upon feeling betrayal?
Did you lose yours the first time you lost love or the moment you noticed shame?
Mine was lost at the age of 2 and then again when I turned 22.
I'm sure you can remember the exact day you lost your innocence.
The exact moment you no longer saw the world with the same black and white colors. Like a baby adjusting to the light, as the tinge of grey began creeping into your vision, when you suddenly saw that veil lift as a crystal clear unblemished truth began to change you. Not at first. But soon. And the truth invaded your body with realism and cynicism and confusion. Not right away. But eventually.
Some lose their innocence when they are children. I lost mine at the age of 2, I was too young to understand how it impacted me. Then I lost it again at age 11 and began to understand how the impact was informing my decisions and my fears. Then when I turned 22 I lost it completely. Gone forever like a shadow muttering my name before I even had one. That impact made me remember how my innocence was something I wished I could hold onto. I began to resent my innocence and looked at it with distrust. I used to close my eyes and pretend I was preserving my innocence longer, wondering what it might feel like if it stayed in tact. If I had lost my innocence older, would it have mummified inside, making the ability to see truth that much more burdensome? Would truth have been more difficult to recognize? Or would it have been easier to adjust to?
Learning truth after innocence fades feels like squinting at first, like the light is so large and so colossal our brains are unable to interpret the full scope of the information pounding down the pavement. I wish I could look at truth with a sort of unadulterated awe. Instead it has become quite loud and colossal and very disruptive. I have a hard time accepting truth. It is not a construct I like very much. Yet it is necessary. It is affirming yet alarming. Discerning yet indifferent.
We are very crafty. We can look at the large mountain of truth and still find a way to completely avoid it's rearing head. For years we can pretend reliable information is false. We can build strategies that allow truth to lie under the bed just a little while longer. We can even become brilliant at alternate reality storytelling, because the hurt, the betrayal, the realness of it all is just too much to bear. It is just too much.
As we get older new stories, new revelations, new shocks can seep into our system. And one day we finally look into the mirror, like deeply look, and really stare and suddenly our own truth looks foreign to us as well. We do not know our own truth anymore, so we begin wearing other people's eternal verities. We adopt new garments of information that become our own and fixate our bodies into these threads of perceivable isms until we forget who we are completely. We can't even feel our bodies anymore. I have done this quite brilliantly. Ignoring body parts, suppressing pain became a habit I had not even recognized I was doing until it became too difficult to rely on any longer.
We can do pretend for many reasons, but mainly because truths, which become to difficult to swallow have the ability to prevent us from feeling everything and gives us permission to go on autopilot. The danger in this mechanism is that it can allow illness take over, because the blocks in our bodies become huge gaping holes for the feelings of dis-ease to settle into. Discomfort, disbelief, and our own disconnection with power can become unrecognizable and alien. Our voice is lost at sea, our consciousness asleep, our bodies rejecting truth becomes the exercise we cannot stop without intervention.
But imagine if we stopped that train from heading down the reckless path before the illness set in. How do we stop it?
By asking questions of ourselves. By noticing the patterns, how losing that innocence has affected our daily living routines. By feeling ourselves suppress our convictions and emotions hiding behind the decay. By noticing our bodies and how our bodies are reacting to the loss. By seeing, not just looking. By feeling, not just touching. By listening, not just hearing. By literally smelling the damn roses for once. For just once.
Before we become too despondent maybe we can reawaken that glimmer of hope that still simmers on a low flame. Before it leaves us slowly extinguishing into a prolonged termination.
Before we layer. Layer with outside labels and immerse ourselves with exterior stereotypes. Before we create ideas that become more external ideas so as not to have to face the person who lives under the truth. The person who hides behind the realism that relies on falsehood as a mechanism to find truth. It is quite startling, really, that we have the audacity to search for truth using pretend. As if the pretend wills the truth away.
Truly, we don't want her to leave, the hope. If we are honest with ourselves, we want her to stay, to re-infuse our souls and re-install our vibrancy. We want her to bathe our cynicism and doubt into submission. But in order to do that, we must have enough trust in ourselves, in our voice, in our power to will that into being.
If we are honest with ourselves, do we not want to get to that place where truth lives and thrives? Where the veil is no longer casting that shadow only to find us awake? Not the awake where we tease ourselves into a living that looks pretend, but the sort of living that is rooted in the deepest layers of soul. Because our soul, the instrument that keeps us awake and opens our heart, refuses to live in falsehood and has been catching us from the beginning. It has been activated and operates on unwavering authenticity- and paradoxically on loss of innocence.
And while there are still moments we catch ourselves still aching and longing for that time of falsehood when innocence still lay intact, we are better for all of our innocence finally leaving on the whisper she flew in on. Yes, truth is more complicated, yet it is also more defining and the birthplace of creation. The creation of our new more powerful, more beautiful, more compelling, persuasive intact new self we have finally allowed ourselves to meet.
*Artwork for this essay is by Marianne Klein. A Holocaust survivor born in Budapest, Hungary. Her art collection is a series of acrylic on canvas impressionistic and figurative works that depicts a symphony of colors. She also enjoys experimenting with different mediums and techniques. When Marianne is not painting, she is busy writing. Her recently published book entitled "All the Pretty Shoes" is now available on Amazon.com and can be viewed at www.alltheprettyshoes.com.