October 14, 2012

Looking back, and moving forward...

On a grey, rainy day, I'm reminded of people and times from my past, and I wonder how I have let my past affect my choices about my future.

My parents each struggled with alcohol, and in varying degrees, with depression and anxiety. More than thirty years after going through the last of their fights, after "graduating" from a youth of stress and uncertainty, I still wonder how it's affected my ability to live and choose my life freely.

I think that the number one pattern in my approach to living now lies in freedom from guilt and debilitating psychological attachments. I still love things, and have sentimental attachments to my keepsakes, but little habitual behaviours like self-isolation, stubbornness, doing-it-myself, and not trusting other people's opinions have been harder to transform.

That's the big work of my life: knowing myself, and knowing how to improve myself.

In my past, I often felt awash in other people's pain, guilt or drama. As a pre-teen and a teen, I had little control over the fallout from my parents life decisions, and I had no clear idea of where I could go in my own life, or even if I would ever have my own life.

There was always a conflict of loyalties at hand for me. I could try to care for my family in my own way but it was an inherently selfless exercise. I wanted to be good, loyal and dutiful, but rarely did I feel acknowledged or recognized. Where was my reward in life? As a kid, I often thought in basic terms like that. Sacrifice and reward. Cause and effect.

I worried about things a lot when I was in my late teens. Worry was a major word in my vocabulary. One day, an instructor told me that I seemed to be worried about a lot of things. It just hit me, his words. I thought about how much I worried about my sister, my father, and my mother, and how helpless their situations made me feel. Over the years, as I got older and wiser, I became more confident in my role and my opinions, and less responsible for some of the things over which I had no control.

A little strategic detachment can be a good thing.

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