I couldn’t find the author of this quotation, but it fit right in with a conversation Arthur and I had yesterday. Through the years I have had friends and acquaintances who allowed the resentment of their past to stand in the way of the future they deserved. Interestingly enough, in my experience, men seem to have a harder time letting go than women.
We all have things in our childhood that negatively affected the adult we became. Some were just happenstance, and some were faults of our parents, but continuing to blame our parents makes little sense. On the day Michael was born I was slapped in the face with the realization that no one gave me a manual. The doctor put this squirming bundle in my arms and said, “he is a beautiful baby; enjoy him,” and he left the room. I had no one to give him to, no one to give me instructions and no where to return him if I made a mistake.
That was the day that I forgave my parents for all of the mistakes they made. I realized that they loved me from the minute I was born, and they did the best that their individual personalities allowed. I was raised by two anxious and overprotective parents. I was not permitted to ride a bike, a sled or any vehicle that exceeded two miles an hour. I was not allowed to get in a car with a friend or date if there was snow in the forecast, and was never allowed to go out on New Years Eve. I was, in fact, led to believe that anytime I entered a car I was risking my life, and any boy I dated was a potential rapist.
Of course I resented the restrictions, but even then I understood that they were manifestations of my parents anxieties that they were unable to control. Of course after eighteen years of living under these conditions, I developed a list of my own anxieties. Luckily Arthur helped me see that most of the restrictions my anxieties called for were unfair to Mike and Beth, and I tempered my fears. When they became overwhelming, my wonderful children patiently stayed home from the object of my anxieties. Did they resent me? Probably! Are they plagued with the family anxiety curse? Unfortunately? They do, however, understand that my love for them is without bounds, and everything I did was out of that overwhelming love. Once you understand that, you can let go of resentment and appreciate the good in your past.
Part of the quote that began last week’s blog stated:
“...the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."
I believe in those words with all of my heart. The poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley finishes off with the lines:
“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
If we live our lives believing that, then we can control our future and better handle our past. We can’t change what occurred in our younger years, but we can control how we react to it. I might never agree with some of my parents decisions, but it is time to put more than our childhood toys away. It is time to put our childhood resentments to rest and enjoy the world that we now live in. I have done so rather successfully and hope Michael and Beth have done the same.
One important thing that we should have learned as children is the art of negotiating. We start out as toddlers, crying and kicking when we don’t get what we want. Then we learn how to manipulate our parents with a cute smile or quick hug. Eventually we learn the benefits of give and take. For those who never got the knack, Mary Greenwood’s book, How to Negotiate Like a Pro, is just the book for you. Even if you think you have the knack, Greenwood shares many tricks that will help you achieve your goal.
As always, a complete review of this book follows my blog.