New Habits

A friend from a very long time ago recently got in touch with me (plus side of online social networks) and we’ve begun to “catch up” on what our life paths have been. She has an advantage over me (or is it the other way around?) in that she’s been following this blog and therefore knows a bit about what causes me to reflect – and to write. She has already given me a different view of my early self – or perhaps more accurately, she has given me an added perspective on that earlier self.

When we knew each other, we were each married – marriages that, for different reasons, did not last. Each of us carried that married name forward, I suspect also for quite different reasons. In my case, I have always said that I became the person I think of myself as being while I was in that marriage, and thanks to the qualities of care and understanding provided me by that husband. I honored those qualities by keeping his surname as my own. My friend has just shared that she experienced some of those same qualities in her friendship with my husband – so strongly that he has remained in her mind over all these years. He is no longer alive, but I’m certain that, wherever it is now, his Soul hears and enjoys her appreciation of him.

My present husband just had a reading assignment which he asked me to review, dealing with the relationship between mothers and daughters. The essay addressed the widely experienced stress that arises between teenage girls and their mothers, as each finds fault with the other. A photo in the paper to announce winning of an important career prize does not produce admiration; instead the mother comments that her daughter should have gotten a haircut before the award ceremony – her bangs are too long. “She never has anything positive to say about me” is the daughter’s criticism of her mother.

Both are correct and both are in error. As the essay suggests, often the motivation for the criticism is loving concern. Unfortunately, only the criticism is heard, not the motivation behind it. Sensitive to being flawed ourselves, we want those we love to be perfect, but in our efforts to perfect them, we accentuate their flaws. It takes an extraordinary sensitivity to resist this urge to perfect, and instead to accept people as they are. But to do so is a lesson well worth learning, not just for improved mother-daughter relationships, but for more rewarding friendships, and happier marriages also.

Looking at how challenging I’m finding it to accept doing less than what I consider to be an adequate performance at my job, I can trace my tendency to self-criticism directly back to my early teens, and my own deeply inculcated negative judgments arising from my mother’s (loving?) intention to perfect me. The fact that my supervisor is more than pleased with my performance does not enter into my self-analysis. Rather, I recognize that accepting others as they are is easier than accepting myself as I am. There remains a deeply embedded need to improve to the point that I will finally hear from a parent that I’ve done well, succeeded, met expectations. Not possible, given that both of my parents are long gone from this world, neither of them having ever said those soothing or supportive words.

I do know, in other ways, that my father was proud of me. And I understand, with an adult’s hindsight, that my mother was not emotionally healthy enough to be other than she was – fear driven to the point of psychosis. Knowing these truths helps – but knowing does not immediately translate to feeling whole, nor healed. The habit of self-criticism is deeply embedded. The habit of self-acceptance must be acquired by diligent, persistent effort.

Fortunately, friends old and new bring their perceptions and appreciation into my process of converting from the old habit to the new one. I may never feel fully at ease with what I do not complete in my 50-60 hour work weeks, but I am learning to set the undone aside without guilt. What needs to be done is getting done, and what needs my attention outside of work is receiving that attention in a timely manner. I do not ask more than that of others – now I’m learning to not ask more than that of myself.

Hmmm… What will I do with the freed-up energy that I have been throwing away on self-judgment?

I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know that I have learned the patience to wait and see what the Divine has planned. I’m delighted that we do not have to have answers, only be open to asking questions which allow answers to present themselves.

Life is so much easier, lived that way.

Impartial Light

Impartial Light

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4 Responses to “New Habits”

  1. chelawriter Says:

    I like the “too pooped to pop” expression! Thanks for that gift.
    It especially describes those 3-4AM hours of wakefulness when my mind has jumped into the next day, dragging the body from sleep into a restless repositioning that threatens to wake my husband also. Then I have to rely on meditation and centering to slow the popping mind back down and allow the body its needed sleep. And I need to process and fully accept your very realistic appreciation that being of retirement age, I am expected to slow down. Also, since I am very far from retired, I must needs adjust my assessment of what doing my actually means.
    Aarrgh, more adjustments 🙂
    I very much appreciate your thoughtful comments, and thank you for being such a consistent follower.

  2. chelawriter Says:

    Thank you for the good wishes – I believe I live much more in the now than most of those around me – and apparently more than I seem to convey. However, my work mandates a good deal of ‘establishing trust’ based on common experience, necessitating remembering the past as it was, good, bad or indifferent. Factually assessing the role of embedded expectations in my present is the only way I know to root them out and achieve permanent change. Otherwise, they WILL infect and negatively affect the now.
    More than anything I think that, at the moment, I’m aware of wanting to achieve more than I’m capable of doing – I get tired, I’m not young enough to burn through multiple weeks without down time and I’m getting far too little of that. Settling for doing less than my best seems the only way to have any “off” time to reflect and catch up with myself… That’s really all I intended to point up.

    • Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

      Sorry if my previous comment seemed negative. We know that our past experiences, negatives and all, have taught us much. And as we age, and our understanding also deepens, earlier events can continue to assist us … positively, in relation to our interactions and choices with others, and within ourselves. I don’t think you should consider that you are “doing less than your best”, but that what was once your best, in reality at this stage, is not physically possible. If you are anything like me, I always say “My mind is still popping, but my body is just too pooped to pop!”
      Hope you can get a little rest in the remainder of the weekend.

  3. Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

    It’s late as I read your post, so I may not have the best understanding. It appears that everyone else feels you are doing a very good job, except you. It also seems you judge yourself much too harshly. I know from my life, how deeply embedded negative treatments and expectations can still affect us. But it’s NOW and it’s perfectly fine … for you to give yourself some positive credit … for all your hard work and a job well done. I also know that when we let too many “old things” continually surface, they can ruin the now and the new that we are given. As I said, the hour is late, so I ask forgiveness if I am completely off track. I wish you only the best.

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