In comparison to the high fear culture we live in now, my childhood was relatively carefree. While both of our parents worked, my two older brothers and I spent countless summer hours searching for fun. We swam in our pool, played ghost in the graveyard, adventured through mini forests and creeks, and rode along our long circular driveway on our Yamaha 50 dirt bike.
I was taught to think for myself and to trust my instincts.
Nonetheless, no matter what parenting philosophy any of us want to hold on to, we are slow to shed the beliefs formed in our earliest years of life. It was no different for my parents. As a result, what they said and how they acted didn't always line up . . . and we children were left to make sense of the disparity.
My mother was a kind hearted, gentle woman who had her own demons and health issues to contend with. In addition to her central nervous system lupus and chronic depression, she also had her own history of sexual abuse, and was raised in a household of various expressions of mental illness. Even if she was raised in the feminist revolution, the lens of her life had a certain unique tint.
She wanted to raise a daughter who was "equal" to her brothers, yet would let my brothers have second helpings of food before me...because they were boys, bigger, and older. My chosen response was to get my share another way . . . by sneaking food after dinner was over. I'm sure I could have acted out a number of different ways, but that one worked for me then. Habits last, however, and that one is not so helpful today . . . and I need to guard against it.
She divorced my father due to his unending denial of his grave alcoholism, yet would still take care of him. She expected us to do the same. (If you have experience with the codependent nature of dysfunctional families, you'll know what I mean.) At 14 years old, to be expected to act happy and pretend that everything is normal when your father has burnt the dinner, smells of the empty vodka bottle, and has given you a present for someone many years younger than you are . . . is a tall order.
My father was a farm kid turned brilliant, patent-holding chemical engineer. He believed in the power of learning and was willing to make financial sacrifices for his children's education. Nonetheless, he didn't like to be questioned. Perhaps that had to do with being raised by a strong-willed mom whose questioning of his father almost cost her her life. Although my father passed away 24 years ago, my understanding is that he carried the emotional burden of protecting his seven siblings and mother against the bipolar alcoholic father.
He taught us to consider greater questions, but not direct ones that questioned him. Complying with his wishes made my childhood run more smoothly, but carried over to adulthood is an ineffective way of running a household. I have to override those rules every time I need to ask a question that may ruffle some feathers.
He believed in high ideals and spoke readily of his morals . . . but alcohol tends to erode our standards of behavior. So, on this front, his inconsistencies can remain in history. I was relieved to find my life mate to be someone whose words and actions were aligned and protective.
Although highly personal, and seemingly disconnected from fitness, I share some of my childhood with you as a means of bringing to light the humanity in all of us.
There's no such thing as a perfect parent . . . in those who raised us, nor as we raise our own children.
Yet . . . there is ALWAYS hope. And there are always CHOICES.
Even among the dysfunctional habits many of us have acquired to get through our childhoods, there were choices. And one of the important first steps to moving forward in our lives and in our health is to acknowledge that even at the age of 5, we made a choice. It might have felt like the only one, but it was ours nonetheless.
It is no different for you today as an adult.
If you are struggling to shed some outdated habit in your life . . . odds are high that you're not sure you want to make the change. Yet, it is truly just a choice away from being changed.
And once you are fully committed to making the change, you've got the wind at your back.
Here's the catch though. In order to smooth down the edges of your deeply worn paths, you will need to make that choice for change again, and again, and again . . . until it's grooves are deeper than the old ones. This could take the remainder of your lifetime. Yet the good news is that it gets easier and easier with every pass.
If your past choices have brought you to a place of hiding, darkness, and un-health . . . it is time to change the course of your life.
You are worth fighting for.
We've been given this life to live to our fullest.
There are those in your life who need you.
Begin to right the wrongs of outdated behaviors that once served your survival, but now hold you in the shadows of life.
If the darkness makes it difficult to know what direction to head, seek out a mentor.
I choose to be a mentor of fitness because I believe it is the fastest route to successful change.
If that is what you want, please schedule a No Sweat Intro to get you back out into the light, and to build the strength to keep you there.