The writer’s block prompt for today asks if my parents made any mistakes. I have come to believe they did not. This might be hard to believe for anyone who knows my biographical history.
My father did not know best in very many things. However, he was the one who, when they discovered I was reading better than I was talking, brought me ever more challenging books, and when I had finished all the volumes in the children’s section gave permission for me to check out whatever I wanted from wherever I wanted in the library. He took a toddler to a Robert Frost reading at the college and his showing off my ability to dramatically recite led to my youthful acting career. One of the only bits of professional writing still extant in the digital age is a direct result of being with my foster parents which would not have happened without my father making the choices he made.
My mother was a brilliant, artistic and musically gifted woman raised in the straight jacket of conservative religion. Economic realities forced her ever into the workforce and yet she made our daily bread, sewed our clothing and maintained an impeccable house. All this while still keeping all the rules and choices of her religious and cultural identity. From her I learned the textile arts and how to make something useful out of nothing, she was the master of Stone Soup. She died when I was still a child.
But the question was, "Did my parents make mistakes and how has that affected my adulthood?" This week I panicked, true panic attack with tears and palpitations and that tunnel feeling of trauma because I was standing in an empty apartment that had been home. This effect might be considered a negative and is residual eddies of a stone cast by my father when I was a teen, but was his leaving a mistake?
I think that question is easier when one is young and still believes in sourcing the root of a problem and blasting it into oblivion, rather than trimming the branches and leaves of whatever weed or tree has grown into some usable shade and then finding a cool spot to sit. For years and more than a few dollars I searched for the growth point of my affirmative answer to that question. I am glad I never found it, or eradicated it. I like the shade.
I was once my parents biggest critics.I held them forever ransomed in my heart for all I was and all I hadn’t in my life, and I thought I had nothing and I didn’t really like me. Therefore, I didn’t really like them. During all this I still was employed, had relationships, bore children. Inside the empty hole grew larger from the acid of anger and hate until there wasn’t enough anything to fill it up. Thankfully my life exploded or imploded in such a way that I sought help. Helping others was an integral part of helping myself. As Authentic Self began to gain in strength and I realized how little in life really was about me, I stopped wanting to root out and change my past.
I tried to grow past blame and anger and grow into a bit of personal and social responsibility, so in talking about my parents and childhood I switched my tactic to humor and forgiveness. I made a joke that covered in one sentence the made for TV-movie scandal plot that was my childhood complete with historical allusion. I forgave my parents, because forgiveness is never permission. I forgave, but did not forget nor would I see their choices as anything but mistakes and internally my Ego still excused many of my own "mistakes" by internally referencing my childhood circumstances.
As I stepped from the victim cape and into a victor costume came guilt; and I am one who believe guilt has a place in our lives, not shame, guilt. A conscience is a wonderful thing to nurture, sort of an internal GPS that says hey, you are truly making a wrong turn here, I stopped looking at all that had been done to me and instead began to look at the trail of havoc I had wrought. I have remained stuck in this mode of still believing wrong had been done to me and I had done wrong and trying to do less wrong while repairing and being responsible for past wreckage.
Recently another paradigm shift has begun to take place. It all started with my eco-consciousness and wanting to learn to compost. It is amazing how nourishing a little garbage can become when properly handled. Compost was my epiphany. Now I am applying the three "r"s to everything that is past and using it to help what I currently am planting.
"R"educe: Less is more. Whether its writing a novel, eating popcorn or driving the freeway, I go for the minimum number needed to fill the need. This also applies to my ego, preferring to un-capitalize the "I" and get it a life, cause its really more fun when its not about me.
"R"euse: Most of life’s experiences can have a point if we let them. Compost the organic, restructure the fallen, and re-imagine the neglected. This works for things, people, and experiences. Who knew the tatting I despised learning as a child would be so prized as a skill by my renaissance friends, or that old t-shirts made such good rugs. And nano-buddies, Writing is one of my favorite ways to re-use all my experiences. A life of only happy would a boring novel make. If your life is truly broken, as mine was once, then what an opportunity to create a beautiful mosaic.
"R"ecycle: Share. Ideas, hugs, everything. Pay all the good stuff forward. And no worries, there really are no new ideas, just new ways of presenting them that make them an original. Love eddies forward in remarkable ways, and those "mistakes" my parents made were "blessings" whose waves pushed me to shores where my life would never have landed otherwise.
I am a summation of all the threads that interplay to make this weave and therefore I would not name one a mistake and pull it free. Of course I am old, and a parent, and a parent whose children have become wonderful men in spite of her parenting so my answer may be tainted or at least tinted by that perspective.
In summation, I made myself a rule when I began writing this blog that I would follow in print one of my ethical guidelines "If you can’t say something nice, you just aren’t trying hard enough, and if you still can’t say something nice even after effort then silence is golden." I thought this would be hardest in areas of my childhood or health and yet I find as I accepted the writer’s block challenge today, this is not true. I can say parenting is a lot like writing. Not everything that I write is brilliant or even usable, but none of it is mistakes and some I have cast aside have later become the basis for true brilliance.
My parents actions may have rarely made the "To Do" list of any parenting book, but I would not be who I am today without the sum of all their decisions, and I like who I am today. So, no, my parents didn’t make any mistakes and neither do I. But there have been a WHOLE LOT of opportunities to compost. 🙂