The physical traits of a person are easy to tie to the combined DNA of that person’s parents. I inherited the shape of my thumbs and large toes from my dad. Mom contributed the fair of my hair, skin, and the need for mascara if I want to look as though I have eyelashes. The mixing of my dad’s brown and my mom’s blue eyes resulted in my sometimes blue, sometimes green hazels, a physical trait I love. Moving away from physical to traits of personality, and perhaps abilities, the idea of Nature vs Nurture comes in to play.
How does a person become compulsive, melancholy, tolerant, happy, or addicted? I never thought much about this question until preparing to adopt our beautiful son. The act of attaching a human to ourselves that we didn’t produce, prompted me and my partner to begin paying close attention to what makes somebody be that somebody.
Some of my skills or traits have been easy to tag as nature: lack of definition between ankle & calf (all paternal); high level of organizational skill (mom); active imagination (dad); conclusion jumping (mom); proclivity to stand on soap boxes (dad); my love of cleaned off kitchen countertops (mom); how music moves me (dad).
Other traits are the seeming result of the genetic input of my parents, coupled with the physical and emotional environments I occupied. I think my dad’s love of words and innate imaginative skill coupled with my mom taking time to read to me caused my life long love of books. I think I acquired my level of can-do from my grandparents, though the tempering by dad’s melancholy and mom’s compulsion created a mutation that, at times, renders me useless.
I don’t think any trait is solely produced by environment. I think innate physical and mental abilities will stunt or bloom given one’s environment. I grew up with an aversion to competition, having ability but never going very far in music or tennis or writing. The lack of confidence in both my parents, their lack of seeing themselves as successful, kept them from knowing how to encourage me into someone they were not. A college professor of mine, a poet who loved gaelic, was the first person to ever urge me to take my writing somewhere. I didn’t have an emotional place for her words and blew them off until a few years ago. I started to think of me and what I wanted as a good thing. I began to take what I was given innately, what I had been given environmentally, and with what I saw that I wanted, started sifting, sorting, discarding, adding. Where this blog could be an amalgamation, combining love of language with the need for validation and significance which emanated from my dad, I choose for it something else. Through awareness, I can find things that may have roots in dysfunction, but are healthy when turned toward the positive. Writing as a cognitive exercise, writing as a means of transparency, writing because I want to, writing because I can, take the place of need or lack as ignition.
I grew up with the successes and limitations of my family. We all do. I choose to take the qualities and skills they gave me, reshape as necessary, then add more chances to try, more opportunities to improve. Cheers!