Once upon a time…
When I was young, I was a shy, timid child and often felt out of place. Almost like a colorful sock that shows up in the dryer; you know it doesn’t belong to you but don’t know how it got there! At the time I didn’t feel colorful, I felt like the ugly duckling; I wanted fit in but often felt unwanted. It was a scary feeling and one that was developed as a result of growing up in a chaotic home. My life was like a roller coaster ride; at times uneventful, often chaotic and always unpredictable.
Protection from chaos; denial, fantasy and other helpful skills..
If denial was a prize, my family would win every time! There was a big elephant living in our home called denial and it was fed by chaos! The chaos would start when my alcoholic father decided to drop off the face of the earth on Friday, only to reappear in a drunken stupor on Sunday night. My mom, an enabler, would then punish dad with cold silence that could last for days or until the next round of drinks. Added to this mix was the ominous presence of my paternal grandmother, whose self assigned task was to keep stirring the pot of resentment between mom and dad. Finally, a set of unruly stepbrothers and orphaned sisters were thrown in for good measure. Well, with a cast of characters like that who wouldn’t want to escape!
Fantasy; out of chaos into La La Land
My fantasy world was one based on good and evil! To escape the pain of rejection and fear, I created an elaborate fantasy, where I was born a princess, who had the misfortune of being hated by an evil rival queen (mirror mirror on the wall…). My “real” parents (insert angelic music) requested that their clumsy, well-meaning and slightly overweight Fairy Godmother whisk me off to safety. She was supposed to deliver me to cousins who lived far far away. Unfortunately, she clipped a wing on her way to the drop off point and ended up crash landing in a dungeon. At this location lived a family, who were the total opposite of my “real” parents. Of course, as in any good fairy-tale I was NOT supposed to be there for long, but the rescue team never showed up and so I was stuck there.
Acceptance, forgiveness and compassion…
Ok, so living in a fantasy world didn’t really work. Despite the elaborate coping skill of fantasy I’d created, I was still scared, sad and very lonely. It was well after I’d left home that the real work of healing began. It took a long time; many tears, therapy and learning how to deal with the pain in compassionate and loving ways until my perspective shifted. I learned to accept and forgive my parents.
I was able to see that despite the chaos and drama, my parents passed on a way of seeing the world that was humble and compassionate. I was also able to see that they were two good-hearted, humble souls, who were struggling to deal with the hurts and challenges they’d experienced in life, while trying to love their children as best they could. As I began to shift my view of them, the door to loving and accepting myself opened. I learned to live with an undefended heart and an open mind. I realized that the most loving thing I do for myself was to have a balanced view of my parents. I realized that all of us in one way or another, at one time or another suffer. It’s just a part of life.
Important life lessons:
- In order to grow we must be willing to see and feel the pain of wounds we carry from childhood.
- Pain isn’t the enemy, it’s how we deal with it. If we see ourselves as victims we will continue to treat ourselves as such. This intensifies the pain and keeps us chained to the past.
- Learning to be compassionate during times of suffering, is what keeps us open hearted and open minded. This helps us move through pain. We stop resisting and insisting that life be other than it is.
- To let go of trying to control life. It doesn’t work and when we try to control things, people, events the pain and suffering intensifies. Instead, when we recognize the fear that is behind the impulse to control we can choose our actions from a place of wisdom instead of fear.
- That we often get many chance to shift our perspective and when we do, it’s an opportunity to connect with what is wise and healing.
- That your past doesn’t define you, it’s your outlook on life.
Until next time…may you be well