Welcome to A Life Examined

What is the examined life? A life worth living! As I look at the road ahead, I take all the baggage from the past and use it as experience - the pain and the passion, the sorrow and the joy - allowing it to carve wisdom into my mind and hope into my spirit.
There is no experience that can't be useful to me at some point in my life. There is no lesson learned that cannot make a contribution to the future.
A tiny drop of water is a part of the ocean. A tiny speck in the night sky is a ginormous star in the distance. It all depends on perspective.
So, this examined life is to offer reflections in the hope of discussing things which are of value to myself and to others.
Love, Sarah

Thursday, 29 August 2013

My "Perfect" Life - part 13

No superstition in me! Part 13 of My "Perfect" Life and I celebrate rather than fear or dread. An attitude toward a situation helps to determine the outcome.... I like the often dreaded number13. My birth date is the 13th of the month and from the first time it was suggested that 13 was a 'bad' number, I chose to relish '13' rather than to fear it. "Otherwise I would never have been born!" I rationalized when I was a child.

My mom was superstitious. Mirrors should not be broken. Luck - good or bad - could be had. I wonder how she felt about my being born on the 13th? Although I don't recall her ever commenting, she must have hated the fact I was born on the13th of the month, because that would have been consistent with her other superstitious fears.

It's funny, but until this moment, I never thought about how her attitude toward me might have been effected by my birth date and her superstitions. Maybe from the outset she was a little bit 'fearful'.

When I was young, my mother said I was 'her' child... as opposed to my sister who was, I surmised, my father's child. My father named my sister, my mother named me. And I guess from the outset, my mother determined to lavish more expectation upon my sister and less control over me. I don't know how my sister felt about the 'arrangement' but certainly I would have benefited from more discipline and less indulgence from my mother. Once in much later years, she admitted she felt guilty for returning to work when I was four (before I started school), and so tried to compensate for the rest of my growing-up years. Parents, it isn't a good idea to soothe your own conscience by spoiling your child. As the old adage says, 'two wrongs don't make a right'.

I'll tell a story revealing the lack of consequence in my life that influenced my teen years.

I was 14. I had been late getting home one evening and my mother grounded me for a week. I had never been grounded before. On day six however, when there was a school dance which, according to the rules of begin grounded, I would have to miss, I pleaded to attend. I am sure I was 'hard work' - persistent, whining, generally irritating and spoiled. My mother relented and let me go. What a pity: just when the opportunity to learn approached, when a real desire would not satisfied and I might have had some real thinking time about how my behaviour or attitude toward my mother needed to change, she didn't have the strength to resist my pleas and lifted the ban on extra curricular. As far as I can recall, being grounded had no real consequence. Perhaps she felt tortured by my pleas or by her guilt at creating an 'unbearable consequence' for me in the first place. She never grounded me again, I do know that. And from that time onward, I was consistently disrespectful of time. By age 18, I had no regard for curfew - other than to 'feel guilty' if I didn't get home on time. There were a few evenings when I was late enough to have kept her up. Once I recall being jolted at the fact she was waiting up, sitting in her wing chair in the living room, very cross that I was home after 1am. I had the audacity to be angry at her, and had no shame or consideration for her feelings at all.

Whose fault was that? Now, as a parent myself, I'd say it was the parent's for not teaching the child in the first place, about respect for rules and the person who makes them. Of course I don't blame my mother, because she tried her best to navigate parenthood and my tempestuous and inconsiderate behaviour. As an adult, I alone am responsible for my attitudes and behaviour. It's just unfortunate that I didn't share with her the fact that I learned - eventually - how to appreciate her.

As I reflect on this, of course I have regret for my lack of consideration. While this is only one aspect of my complex relationship with my mother, it is an important one. I loved my mother dearly, and I'm certain she loved me. But neither of us seemed to know enough about love to know how to show it.

Parenthood and growing up are difficult. Building relationship is no easy task. Love helps, fear damages, guilt is useless. That is the perspective I have now. If there is any wisdom in this reflection, I hope it may inspire other parents and off-spring. If there is a life-inspiring comment I can close with it is this:

'Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will depart from it.' This is a wise adage from Ecclesiastes in the Bible. It has proven to be true time and again.

Are there moments that you remember from your past that seemed to influence dynamics in your family?

Best wishes for your relationships this week.

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