It could stem from my childhood when my larger than life Grandfather would jokingly say that I must be an old soul because no child had such depth in their eyes. My Grandfather, a 6’5″ guy with huge hands and feet had a booming laugh which he used rarely and an almost diabolical mind that he used on me frequently. It wasn’t unusual for us to sit at the dinner table and debate politics or the economy; at the age of six. My feet couldn’t reach the floor but he demanded that my mind reach far beyond the simplicity of commonsense. But he wasn’t fanciful, he wasn’t religious or mystical; the man was a meat and potatoes kind of guy who would look at his oldest granddaughter and expect more than I ever knew I had to give. He was one of the best of me.
But despite his own philosophies about such things I can still remember watching him and memorizing who he was. He was to me someone who survived life and wasn’t upset that for the most part was never able to live life. And yet, to him I was something very much a part of this world, yet more than those around him. And those around him included my bipolar Grandmother, my own Mother (his daughter), and her multiple siblings and their families.
My other Grandfather, my father’s father, who was even more of a simple and easy man on the surface, who never raised his voice or ever only lead by example was to me something I would not understand until long after he was gone. He was a man that allowed his wife to speak while he ate the dinner she fixed. The television was turned to her channels and she got to read the paper first. It was simply the man he was.
For many years I thought this made him weak; for many years I spent my life simply trying to figure out what I would later learn held a very complex man. This Grandfather loved to dole out nicknames for all the children and grandchildren. They were his pet names, something only he was allowed to use. My sister had one, my father had one, my cousins had one; but not once in my relationship with him would I ever have one. I would not have a hint of a nickname; I was always until his dying breath simply and only me.
I spent years blinded by resentment or fear that I wasn’t as loved because I wasn’t given a nickname by this man. Until one day I simply asked. He was well into his eighties, his mind long since reliable, and simply existing in a day to day world, waiting to join his wife in the next realm. But I had to know; I needed to know why I was not as lucky as everyone else. Why was I different?
The answer came with astonishing clarity; I didn’t need a nickname. I was perfect exactly the way I was; the person that I was and the person I would become needed no hidden word to hide behind. I had no need to hide or be someone else even for a moment. It wasn’t possible to truly give me a nickname because I was strong enough to be myself.
These words came at a time when I was just learning about my diseased mind. I was trying to cope with the medications, the therapists, and the reactions of all those I loved. But for these two men, separated by a decade, by experience, by life, both believed that I had something different about me. I sincerely doubt either one of them could have ever defined it; that wasn’t the kind of men they were. But they could see it because they had spent their whole lives seeing and dealing with something very different.
I have taken this idea and used it many times. My two Grandfathers have always held a reverent and almost spiritual place deep within my heart. Because they are larger than life in my memories, because they have always even in their death treated me with the respect and kindness those of us that can claim to be different rarely feel.
I recently read an article describing those who have been around the bend; the old souls that are often dismissed out of the fear of reincarnation. The article, which I won’t quote because it has been written too many times by too many authors, posits that there are qualities of old souls. There are specific characteristics that can point to what an old soul does, looks like, and ultimately will be. Do I believe that there are definite characteristics? That would be like believing that all brown eyed girls are the same; easy answer to a very complex and possibly even fictional question. Are there old souls or are there simply those of us with minds that are stronger, deeper, even evolved? This may be the real question.
This article, and the hundred before it state that old souls like to be alone, although they are not shy. Old souls can understand or even read other peoples motives minutes after meeting them. Old souls can feel another’s pain, another’s joy. An old soul searches constantly for the answer or even the questions to not only better themselves but to give back to the world in which they live; in other words they were born to give. And most of all, old souls don’t fit in; they are different, strange. They can not blend within this very strict and ruled world.
But what if those same characteristics were applied to a person with a diseased mind? What if the truth is that there are no old souls, there are simply minds categorized as diseased but instead are evolved and can handle parts of this world that others see as mystical, even fanciful. What if the truth is that none of us have a diseased mind, we are simply evolved?
Don’t go and throw out your meds just yet.
We know through men like Darwin and our own studies that the natural world evolves. It changes in order to survive. Those species that can’t evolve (or are mercilessly hunted before they have a change to evolve) simply die out. They get no second chances or even one last breath; they die and do so for all of this natural world’s existence. So we can assume that humans too are evolving; after all we were once apes (I will not argue evolution, ever.)
One of the biggest myths out there is that we use only ten percent of our brain; actually we use pretty much all of it, just not at one time. But we can still make an argument, even with this knowledge, that using more of our brain at one time than is evolutionary normal would have certain characteristics emerge.
For instance, let’s take the argument that old souls like to be alone, but are not incapable of socializing. What if it isn’t that these minds are old, but rather simply have so much going on in their brains they need the peace and quiet. I do. If you could listen into my brain for one minute you would need a break too. If you knew all the desperate desires, the unholy need for knowledge, the incredible sense that those voices heard everyday may give me a clue when others can’t, you would want to be in bed with the covers over your head as well. So am I mentally ill or an old soul? or could it be a simple fact that on the evolutionary scale my brain is a step closer to total perfection?
What about the argument that old souls don’t fit in? I truly hate to ruin anyone’s day but I haven’t fit in since the day I was born. I didn’t fit into school, I didn’t fit into normal relationships and quite frankly I often wonder how a mother could possibly be so different from her own children. I just don’t work with the normal world; I could give you stories of bosses that were literally shaking their head trying to figure me out. I have lost more jobs because I didn’t quite fit then any person should; and they are always wrapped in a neat package that has allowed me to never have been fired. Is this an old soul? Is this because of my mental illness? Or am I a stand out because I have evolved?
Understanding old souls is a fascinating quest. Do they exist? Do they truly have some of the same characteristics of a mentally ill person? And is a mentally ill person simply someone who is higher on the chain than others? At what point do we get to state that mentally ill humans are not characteristically bad? At what point do we get to figure out that those of us with these diseased minds actually aren’t the problem, we simply don’t fit? At what point do we as humans look at each other not with fear but with the endless possibilities to questions long answered? At what point can I come out from behind this blog, show my face, and find the answers that have plagued me my whole life?
I keep pictures of my Grandfathers close. I wish they had had the opportunity to stand together so I could have gotten a picture of the two of them to hold close. Instead I have memories of two men, vastly different, but who were one of the extremely few who saw me not as a person to fit a mold but one who could be the mold. Only one of them lived long enough to find out I was ill, and his behavior to me never changed. I was me. Not an old soul, not mentally ill, and not evolved. I was simply more in their eyes and for that I will fall to my knees each and every time. Because they saved me long before I knew why that was so important.