When I was in my 30s or so, I emailed my father because I’d had a revelation.
“You treat all of the women you’re connected to horribly,” I announced.
I’d cracked the code and I had proof. At the time, his mother was a recent double amputee, who’d just moved in with him and his wife. During a breakfast outing, she confided to Dwight and me that he was charging her rent.
I also recounted a rumor I’d heard about how he’d mistreated my own mother. It was something about helping another woman move to Moline, IL while my mother was hospitalized 165 miles away. The indiscretion occurred before I was born, but I’d heard about it so much, primarily when adults didn’t know I was listening, that I could re-tell it myself.
I left the secrets I’d accrued about his current relationship unsaid, and instead, concluded with his treatment of me, which included explicit and implicit abandonment and unfulfilled promises.
“You always did judge me harshly,” he wrote, “but you know what? You’d do better psychoanalyzing yourself.”
At the time, I was offended.
Wouldn’t knowing my parent offer insights into myself and our relationship? I mean, I guess I could’ve phrased it with a less judgmental tone, or used “I statements,” but I’m no therapist and at the time hadn’t sought therapy. All I suspected was that I may be better if I understood his patterns of behavior because parts of who he was had affected me in some way.
Or, was he right?
Would I do better to simply think deeply about my own negative behavior, which was quickly adding up and determine how to proceed with life in a healthier way? Would it be better to stare myself down in the mirror and focus on the image reflected back to me?
Fifteen years ago, it was much easier to point out everyone else’s flaws than to identify and focus on my own. It always is. Plus, I wasn’t ready for that type of introspection.
But, after finally doing the work, I find it’s also important to research your family of origin as a method of recognizing patterns of behavior they may have passed on to you. Sometimes these models have inextricably bound you together in unhealthy ways.
However, I do recognize the rudeness of my communication. If I had the opportunity to re-send this email to my father, I wouldn’t. I’d just accept the observations of his life as observations (and judgments) and be grateful about how helpful they may be for me.
While I believe we will do best to worry about ourselves, ultimately, we were each shaped by our first communities, our families. And understanding who they are/were can be integral to understanding ourselves.
What do you think?
A few weeks ago, a “friend” of mine read one of my FB posts, followed the comments, and then sent me this message via inbox:
You be so fake in your comments.
Or something like that. I can’t give a direct quote because after we conversed, I deleted the message. His unsolicited opinion bothered me that night. It stuck with me because of how I’d replied. Initially, I defended myself. I wanted to show him that I wasn’t being “fake.” It continued to irk me because I’ve worked so hard to be my authentic self no matter where I am, social media, in person, wherever. I’ve made conscious decisions to shine my personal light. Then, it bothered me because it bothered me. Have you ever felt like that?
It lingered in my thoughts for about 48 hours. By that time, I knew I had to remove him and his words from my consciousness. They were both taking up too much space in my mind. That Sunday night, I flipped through don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, until I found the one that fit: Don’t take anything personally.
If I see you on the street and say, “You are so stupid” without knowing you, it’s not about you, it’s about me. If you take it personally, then perhaps you believe you’re stupid.”
After reading a few more pages, I meditated, sipped my lavender tea, and let go of the incident.
About a week later, one of the ladies from the book club I’m hoping to join reached out to me and said, “I like your spirit.” This comment elicited the opposite emotion. I was elated. Who doesn’t want to hear nice things said about her personality? And like I’d mentioned above, I’ve worked on portraying my true self. So, I was overjoyed that someone I’d just met noticed a positive trait.
But I had to remember agreement #2. It still applied. You see, Ruiz continues to explain that even if someone says something that you agree with, then there’s still no reason to take it personally. A person’s opinion, whether positive or negative, is based on how that person feels in that moment. Tomorrow, the same person might have something horrible to say.
The first time I read this it didn’t quite click. After receiving two different opinions within a week of one another, it now makes perfect sense. Not only is taking other people’s opinions personally exhausting, it can also be an indication that you’re not secure with who you are. If I know that I’m an authentic person, with a great spirit, then others’ opinions should be neither denigrating, nor uplifting. They should just…be.
Let me know what you think. How do you deal with other people’s opinions of who you are? Do people offer opinions of your personality?
*Edited for Forgiving Fridays. Participate here: https://forgivingconnects.com/2017/05/05/todays-forgiving-fridays-i-have-a-question-3/comment-page-1/#comment-3373
When you know better, you do better, and when you do better, you have some semblance of clarity. You know yourself, and you no longer walk the fine line of being one type of person in public and an entirely different one in private. You learn that it’s either okay that you speak from your heart, or it’s not. You learn that people will be comfortable with who you are, or they will not. Either scenario is fine.
When you know better, you do better, and when you open your eyes and begin to see other people for who they are, instead of who you want them to be, then you can truly choose. You can choose to highlight the excellent parts. You can continue to allow the bad parts into your space and energy. Or you can determine if the good outweighs the bad. You can decide with whom you want to engage and how.
When you know better, you do better, and when you do better, you accept better. What is better for you? Is it a better job that is aligned with your passion and skillset? Is it a better relationship that mirrors your values? Is it a better home that reflects who you are? Whatever “it” is, when you know better, you’ll feel what’s best and draw it into your life. There will be no choice; like attracts like.
And when you do these things altogether: be your true self, see others for who they are, and accept better circumstances, then you can live a more peaceful life.
But first you have to know better.
Happy New Year good people! Are you making any changes this year? Will you continue walking a similar path because it’s working for you? Feel free to share; you never know who you might meet right here in these comments. As for me, I’ll be publishing another book and focusing positive feelings towards the type of educational setting that’s right for me.
*inspired by Maya Angelou
About two years ago, I created this kwote. If you’ve been following my blog, even for a little while, then you know this is one of my personal mantras: Live your life, unapologetically. People generally agree with this sentiment. I mean really, not many disagree that following your heart and doing what you want with your life is a positive way to function.
The challenge comes when it’s other people’s lives. Sometimes, we want the freedom to be and live how we want, but we want to confine and judge the choices that other people make about their own lives.
Allow people to live their lives unapologetically.
I’m not exempt from this. Sometimes I get the urge to share some sage wisdom I learned when I was in a similar situation. I can see the “missteps” people make with jobs, relationships, or children because I’ve been there before. Or have I? I have children, but I’ve never been a single parent. I’ve been married for 20 years, but my marriage is set up quite differently than other married couples’.
How can I advise someone of next steps when they are a different person, with his or her own experiences, living in a different time period? I cannot. And I usually do not. Any friend or family member gets the same answer if they ask me what they should do about fill-in-the-blank: You already know what to do.
Let that sink in for a moment. You already know what to do.
For me, this is true for everyone. I know it may feel better to ask three or four people if you should take the job offer, but deep down, if you’re quiet enough, you will know if you should shift positions. Here’s the question: If you already know what to do with your life, don’t you think the same might be true for your child or brother?
Listen. I hate to sound like Polyanna. Trusting yourself and your intuition is hard if you’re used to relying on other people’s opinions. But there’s a beauty in it. Once you’re able to trust your own guidance system, then something magical happens. You’re able to allow other people to live their own lives, without explanation too.
*This Monday Note is brought to you courtesy of someone providing me with unsolicited advice about how I choose to live. Instead of participating in an argument, I simply wrote responses in my Notes section 😉 Let me know what you think.