Pass the Bean Bag Chair

I was talking to my friend Jenn the other night about the many differences we perceive between ourselves and our parents, especially on the generational level. Politically, financially, the things we value, our approaches to child-rearing, our emotional and spiritual lives, etc. We have many things in common but wow, there are so many differences. 

We both feel like in some ways our generation has more in common with the generation of the Great Depression than our "baby boomer," parents. Before the recession that rocked my generation and changed us forever, I wanted to be a movie star, rich and famous, with a villa in Italy. Now, my material goals are mainly to be able to one day have a durable house on some land where I can grow my own food, have some chickens, that can be a physical place on the globe where my children and grandchildren can return to feel safe and loved. And that I can leave to them someday. And I'd also really like to get some beautiful china and high-quality cookware that I can use at all of the family meals and holidays throughout the years, so that whenever the grandbabies see them they're like, "Ahhh, the same beautiful dishes, now I'm home." And then leave them to the one who will take the best care of them and treasure them and be the most responsible with them.  Beyond that, just a legacy of love will do.

Like this lady, Tasha Tudor. Granny Goals. Check out those dishes! *drool*

When I was pregnant, and when I was trying to get pregnant, and thinking about trying to get pregnant, I really wanted a daughter so badly, but I was so afraid that she wouldn't love me. That I'd be a disappointment to her, or that she'd think I was too, like, disorganized, messy, silly, or weird. That she and I wouldn't see eye-to-eye. In other words, that she would be more like my mother than me, and that there would be a gap between us, like there is between me and my mother. 

There, I said it.

I want to say that my mom is an amazing human being and a great mother. My dad is an amazing human being and a great father. 

There, I said that, too.

Everyone is doing the best they can with the knowledge and awareness that they have at any given moment. See, I've read my fair share of Louise Hay, people, and I've done a lot of inner child work. 

I've been thinking a lot about what Louise, the original self-help guru, said about our inner child. It goes like this (bold print emphasis is hers) and I got this quote here:

"It doesn’t matter how old you are, there is little child within who needs love and acceptance. If you’re a woman, no matter how self-reliant you are, you have a little girl who’s very tender and needs help. If you’re a man, no matter how macho you are, you still have a little boy inside who craves warmth and affection. 
As children, when something went wrong, we tended to believe that there was something wrong with us. Children develop the idea that if they could only do it right, then parents and caregivers would love them, and they wouldn’t punish them. In time, the child believes, There is something wrong with me. I’m not good enough. As we grow older, we carry these false beliefs with us. We learn to reject ourselves. 
There is a parent inside each of us, as well as a child. And most of the time, the parent scolds the child—almost nonstop! If we listen to our inner dialogue, we can hear the scolding. We can hear the parent tell the child what it is doing wrong or how it is not good enough. We need to allow our parent to become more nurturing to our child. 
Heal The Hurts Of The Past  
I have found that working with the inner child is most valuable in helping to heal the hurts of the past. At this point in our lives—right now—we need to begin to make ourselves whole and accept every part of who we are. We need to communicate with our inner child and let it know that we accept the part that did all the stupid things, the part that was funny looking, the part that was scared, the part that was very foolish and silly—every single part of ourselves. 
Love Heals 
Love is the greatest healing power I know. Love can heal even the deepest and most painful memories because love brings the light of understanding to the dark corners of our mind. No matter how painful our early childhood was, loving our inner child now will help us to heal it. In the privacy of our own minds we can make new choices and think new thoughts. Thoughts of forgiveness and love for our inner child will open pathways, and the Universe will support us in our efforts."

I think it's worth noting that Louise Hay was horribly abused, physically, sexually, and emotionally, by her stepfather throughout her childhood. Her story is a good one, and her book, You Can Heal Your Life, is on my "Required Reading For Human Beings" book list. It may sound very touchy-feely, but it helped me a lot over the years. My parents' generation, by and large, learned basically nothing about feelings, coping skills, conflict resolution, personality types, boundaries, and the like. They did the best they could with what they knew how. 

I was lucky enough that life led me to things like my AmeriCorps program, where once a week we had these team meetings where they would teach us slightly dorky workshops about things like conflict resolution, leadership, and personal development. Like for conflict resolution they taught us how to use, "When you/I feel," statements to communicate how you feel in order to resolve conflict. Such as, "When you tease me about being messy, I feel embarrassed and small." Or, "When you take a huge shit and forget to the flush the toilet, I feel like throwing up in my mouth." You get the idea. You feel like you're in a bean bag chair in some hippy therapist's office at the time you're learning it, but it really does come in handy later. And you're not allowed to make the feeling statement an accusation. Like, you can't say, "When you take a huge shit and forget to flush the toilet, I feel like you're a disgusting pig." That's not how you use the "I feel" statements, folks. You will get a talking-to by your workshop leader if you do. Trust me.

They also taught us about different personality types, like the whole introvert/extrovert thing before it became trendy. That was when I learned why some people genuinely enjoy being wallflowers. They have fun in a different way than I do. And why introverts think I'm an idiot just because I'm bubbly. To them, silence = thinking. (Well I can chew gum and walk at the same time, suckas! I'm deep as f**k, yo.) 

And life also led me to parental figures who "got" me a little better than my own parents sometimes did, and gave me guidance and support that matched my vibes. They're no substitute for my own parents, but it was nice to get a little positive reinforcement along the way.

But still, that inner critic is so hard to deal with. I never really got an addiction that helped me numb out, so I just suffered and writhed in internal torment and alternated between lashing out at loved ones or pushing them away. And I flunked out of my first year of college, got a few super toxic relationships, self-sabotaged constantly and derailed my entire future by making really unwise life decisions in a weird subconscious attempt to self-destruct. So, like, I did pretty well in the self-harm department, if I do say so myself. (Weird flex, but okay.)

One of the many blessings of having a kid (besides how stinkin' cute they are) is that you get a different perspective on your own childhood, for better and for worse. On the one hand, you immediately apologize to your parents for anything you ever put them through, and you realize they were trying their best. 

On the other... If you are one of many people whose parents maybe didn't always make you feel seen, safe, cared for, nurtured, met halfway, etc... If you have a child of your own, look in their eyes and ask yourself, "Is there anything they could do that would make me neglect, abuse, or abandon them?" Is there any action they could take, or neglect to take, that would force me to be a bad parent to them?

The answer is no, of course not. Your child is perfect the way they are. Doesn't mean they won't need some upbringing, and to be taught right from wrong, but there is nothing a baby or child can do to their parents that makes it so that they no longer deserve love and care.

Now look at yourself as a tiny child.

No matter how ornery, naughty, colicky, stubborn, or rebellious you were, there was absolutely nothing you could have done to deserve being neglected, hurt, abused, or abandoned in some way by your parents. 

You were a good child. Because all children are good. Even the occasionally naughty ones.

I've been a nanny and a teacher, I love kids. They're my favorite people and I think they should be running the world. Ask anyone who takes care of children, and we will tell you that we can see when something is going wrong in the home of a little child. You can see the difference in behavior, in how they carry themselves, in their energy and emotions. The things they say off-hand. The kinds of questions they ask you from time to time. If they lash out suddenly, what upsets them, etc. 

There's a difference between an ornery little scamp and a kid who's going through something at home. 

If a caring adult doesn't intervene, the path will inevitably lead to self-destruction in some form or another. 

Even if your primary caregiver was/is a wonderful, perfectly nice person who loves you very much and was doing their best when they raised you, that doesn't mean that bad things don't happen. And they are never the child's fault. They are always the adult's responsibility.

Take it from someone who tormented herself for years. Until like, very recently. There is a way out, and there is hope, and you don't have to be in pain forever. 

I'm not an expert, but they say a three-pronged approach is best: physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual. I agree with that. Rehab, sobriety, taking good care of your body, 12-step programs, support groups, therapy, meditation, prayer, reiki, a spiritual path that works for you. All of that. Yes.

The hardest but most potent tool is forgiveness of yourself and the ones who hurt you. By that I don't mean saying, "What you/I did was okay." It just means saying, "What happened, happened, and there is nothing I can do to change it now. I'm not going to torment myself with it any longer, because all that does is wreak havoc in my life. And my life is worth saving." If you can't face yourself in the mirror as you are now, think back to yourself when you were a tiny child. Keep going until you get to an age where you can soften towards yourself and acknowledge that you hadn't done anything wrong then. And do some self-parenting. Tell yourself at that age that you're good and that you're an adult now, and you're going to take better care of both of you. That you've got this now and you'll keep your inner child safe. 

It sounds very kumbaya, but it helps. 

We can only do so much, but with help from the higher power, we can do anything. That's what I've experienced, anyway. I never thought I would feel peaceful inside. Not zonked out zombie. It's hard to describe. It's like, on the inside I'm safe. On the inside, I'm loved. On the inside, I'm accepted for exactly who I am. I'm not perfect. I'm so far from perfect it's low-key ridiculous. But I'm not in that place of internal torment anymore. I've got this faith inside that has transformed me in such a short amount of time. Just a few months. It's accomplished what I tried to do for years. Nothing compares, not a really great meditation session or yoga class, not even a great concert or inspiring church service. Nothing. I would leave those things and within a few minutes, the churning and snarling inside would be back. I never thought I'd be free. I thought the best I could hope for would be to hide my nature enough that it wouldn't drag my child down right along with me. 

It's almost impossible to describe the feeling. Before I experienced it, I couldn't even begin to perceive it, I didn't even have an emotional vocabulary for what I can only try to name "peace" and "faith." The closest I could have guessed in the time before would have been "boredom" and "blindness." But I was wrong

Now that I'm on the other side of the internal torment... I can't just sit back and enjoy it. Not when I know there are others still suffering. Not when people I love have that raw-nerve-ending torture-pain inside. I can't just say, "Oh well," and forget about them. I have to go back and bring them with me. If you're reading this, I don't want to leave you to hurt, I want to bring you to where I am now. Otherwise... Well, what would be the point? 

Louise Hay


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