This is the period of the year when many promises are made, but very few will be kept after the stroke of midnight on January 1st. It is the time when ghosts of Christmases past revisit us as we take stock of the last twelve months. The question is, “Can we learn to speak the truth to ourselves”?
We have many reasons to do things to excess, whether we want relief from a high pressure job or we wish to forget the frequent arguments with our spouse, but whatever the reason or the method we use to numb ourselves, the New Year arrives. I would like to share my story about learning to open myself to those ghost of the pasts.
I am again reflecting on life events which offer crossroad opportunities for self review, self adjustment and self forgiveness.
Three years ago, a lunch with my son was one such event. The song I intuitively chose to sing in the car on my way to the restaurant was “Let it Be” by the Beatles and it was a definite stage setting anthem. As young adults, how many of us have had the opportunity to sit down with our parents in order to have the “talk”? A conversation about what you experienced as a child and teenager as you were growing up in your household is probably more uncomfortable to your parents than a talk about the changes one experiences while going through puberty.
That said, I had always been of the view that doing this easily removes twenty plus future years of unresolved anger and hurt. At least, this is what I told myself when I was moving into adulthood. Like most real life situations, living the experience from both sides of the equation, as a child and then as a parent, gave me a heart opening perspective on what this exercise is truly about. Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements are clear guidelines for this type of dialogue. For those readers not familiar with his work, they are:
1) Be impeccable with your word
2) Don’t take anything personally
3) Don’t make assumptions
4) Always do your best.
The first agreement encourages you to say only what you mean. Less is more and clarity is the key. The second agreement is something, which in the Western world, we have great difficulty in understanding, since we too often sit in judgement or feel victimized. During our conversation at the restaurant, my son brought up incidents he clearly remembered one way and I another. Yet, both were very legitimate given our respective knowledge at the time. Interestingly, there were also a few events I was very regretful of and for which he had no clear memory and vice versa. According to the Toltec teachings, what others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. This is were most of our mutual suffering comes from.
There were a few exclamations of surprise. Some offered welcomed lightness between very serious moments, when previously held assumptions underwent radical transformation as new information was shared. Recognizing the other’s pain and creating space for an honest and non-judgmental conversation leads to the final realization. We all do our best and our best will change from moment to moment.
Do I think I could have used a visit to a parenting rehabilitation facility if such venues existed…absolutely! Especially when it came to my overly hands on approach once he became a teenager. Did I have the best of intentions and reasoning? I thought so at the time. Upon review (his and mine), did I fail when it came to actual results? On the parenting report card, I definitely do not give myself a pass for that time period.
Hindsight is 20/20 vision. That day, I gave a heartfelt apology to my son, to my mother on the other side (because I mistakenly thought I would be a better parent) and finally… to myself.
I highly recommend an open dialogue when possible. Just be sure to leave your ego at home. It serves no purpose when one attempts to build a new bridge of communication with love, understanding and courage as primary tools.