Your parents’ eyes don't light up when you walk into the room the way that they do for your sibling. And no matter what you do, no matter what you achieve, you can’t seem to break the spell that they appear to be in. If you think that it's one of those situations that you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life, well, think again. Here's how I transformed my relationship with my parents.
The way that I look at it, there are, essentially, two kinds of parents: The ones who put obstacles in your way, and the ones who remove them. I had the former. Which ones you get (or which ones you choose - more on that, in a minute) has zilch, zip, zero and a great, big goose egg to do with how successful or unsuccessful you become in your life. Oprah was abandoned by her mother, raised by an abusive grandparent and sexually molested by another relative. Beyonce's mother was the wind beneath her daughter's wings. Both women, hugely successful. "What's up with that?" you might be asking. Well, here’s what I believe is going on, but first let’s take a short trip down memory lane to the two years that I lived in India.
Kelly and I and our then newborn son, Robert, had been living in Delhi just a few months when I sought out an ayurvedic doctor. Through my inquiries, I finally found one. Dr. T. and I had many conversations regarding health, chakras and other esoteric topics while he treated me. One day, Dr. T. told me that our parents don't choose us. We choose our parents. I thought it was laughable and I countered his statement by telling him that I was pretty sure that I would never have chosen mine. "Well, you did," he insisted in his broken English and with his hallmark, smarty-pants smirk. He went on to explain that before we incarnate, out there in the spirit world (wherever that is), we choose every detail of the life we're about to inhabit, right down to the two folks who are going to provide our physical bodies for the journey. Once we're [re]born, the memory of it is erased so that we can work through the lessons - the karma - from our past lives. The purpose of this is to become ever more conscious with each passing lifetime until we become enlightened.
I wish I could tell you that I dismissed the idea, but I couldn't. It struck something that I couldn't easily shake. So I kicked it around for a while as I was trying to sort out the painful situation with my parents until I realized, at long last, that it didn't matter, whether or not I subscribed to this belief or not. The takeaway was this: Take complete responsibility for your life. Period.
Now, this is a particularly hard pill to swallow if you were a child of abuse or neglect because you were too small to speak or defend yourself. Believe me when I say that I know a little about this. But the message is the same, no matter what your childhood was like. And in the case of those of us who endured tough childhoods, it couldn't be more critical. In fact, healing from those wounds is the first step to discovering who you are (hint: you are a gift) and what your life purpose is.
After many years of trying to win over my parents, I finally embraced the fact that no noble deed, remarkable achievement, not even just being a solid and decent human being was ever going to change my parents. So, reluctantly, I gave up. This was really, really, really hard. For starters, I was giving up on the possibility of ever feeling loved and cherished by my parents. And to make matters even more uncomfortable, I had to admit to myself that, deep down, a part of me knew all along that they would never change and that I had orchestrated all of those futile attempts as diversion tactics so that I wouldn’t have to feel (and, more importantly, deal with) the profound heartbreak and finally wake up to the reality that my life story was different from what I wanted it to be.
The finality of it was devastating. But whereas I imagined that after the long journey I was going to hit a brick wall, I experienced something entirely different. The letting go created a distance and, thereby, an opening to view them in a different light: I took them out of the context of being my parents and asked myself, “Who are they, really? I began to delve into their life stories, asking many questions about the life experiences that shaped them. I asked them if they were fulfilled and if they were happy with their life choices. I listened closely to the words that they chose as they spoke. Often, what they said and what I picked up on while they spoke didn’t match. I took note. Slowly, I pieced together the stories of their lives, what their hearts' desires were, and what the experiences were that informed their decisions as individuals, community members, spouses and, ultimately, as my parents. It was an eye-opening exercise, to say the least. And it was only then that I realized that getting their approval wasn’t what I wanted after all. I wanted to hold myself to a different standard. One that was founded on my own authenticity. And all that rigmarole, I realized, hadn’t been a yearning for them, per se, but for whom I wished I had gotten for parents.
But going back to what Dr. T explained, if I had chosen my parents, why had I chosen mine? I sat with this one for a while, too, and the only thing that I can come up with is for contrast. I’ve noticed that this thing happens to me whenever it’s time for me to become aware (or conscious) about an aspect of myself (lately, it’s been about fully embracing and expressing my creativity). I, or my soul, my knowing, subconscious, whatever you want to call it, creates contrast in my life so that I can more easily and clearly identify (and then integrate) this unexpressed part of myself. And since our parents are huge forces in our lives, this must have meant that the lesson and message that they inadvertently imparted to me was going to be quite a significant one.
And it was.
In the case of my parents, the contrast had to do with bucking tradition (what I was supposed to do with my life, whom I was supposed to be and be with, what I was supposed to believe in and how I was supposed to act) and blazing my own trail. Becoming, essentially, the pioneer in my life. And the boldness that it took, I promise you, was very uncharacteristic of me, at the time. But there it was and as Goethe once keenly observed, “Boldness has genius, magic and power in it." The actions that I took from then on radically transformed the landscape of my life to the point that today my life looks nothing like it did before. And instead of feeling bogged down, as I had so many years ago, I feel like I'm in the main current of my life, unobstructed, except for an occasional bought with resistance (trans: fear) when I forget for a moment who I am and what I came here to accomplish.
Admittedly, it’s taken a lot of work to get here and I feel weary just thinking about it. Was it all worth it? Today, I am happy and strong and confident. But I've just barely begun the real work of my life so I can't say that I'm entirely fulfilled just yet. Interestingly, from that same place where the boldness came, inspiration and excitement are now coming forth. There are moments when I get a strong feeling that my life is going to take shape in ways that I never could have imagined. And instead of feeling dread, I look forward to the unfolding with anticipation (and impatience!). And I can't wait to share it with you as it does.