I am reticent to admit that there are days when I spend time fixated at looking at myself in the mirror. I just can’t believe what’s happening! My body is starting to look just like my mothers. The irony is that she never exercised a day of her life, ate pretty much what she wanted, never took supplements or meditated. In fact she would often get angry and throw stuff around, drink wine every night, and stress was her constant companion. She lived to be ninety-nine. Her last several years were not the best, but for the majority of her life she was in good health and got around quite well. In fact she drove from Long Island where she lived alone till she was ninety , to my home in Plymouth. I was always amazed at how she got here intact or that she had not left a wake of car accidents, since she was totally afraid of driving. I on the other hand exercised myself into a coma, tried to eat so-called healthy foods, and learned to meditate. My career, teaching people how to manage their stress was my best teacher, but none of the aforementioned curtailed the onslaught of joint problems that have become a part of my journey. Also none of what I did exercise wise has kept my body looking any different from my mothers. She would often say that as you get older you get the furniture disease. That’s when your chest falls into your drawers. She was spot on. Despite all of her so-called dysfunctional habits, she had a sense of humor ,albeit dark and often cynical, that seemed to help her cope with aging and the problems it brings with it. She would often laugh at me when I told her to exercise as if she already knew what I was in for. My humor is less dark, but it seems to continue to be available even when I’ve been faced with the news that I need two knee replacements and a possible shoulder replacement. I figure I may go bye-bye, but some of my parts will be around forever. Since none of us are going to get out of here alive, it’s probably a good idea to spend as much time as possible exercising your funny rather than your fanny.
Over the years I have read many a self-help book that advocated for being in the “now”. Although I feel there is great merit in acknowledging and celebrating every moment you have, I also feel that the past and it’s lessons both good and bad are incredibly meaningful. My career would not have been as successful if I did not have the plethora of stories I refer to about my grandmother, grandfather, and mother. I have many memories of both negative and positive experiences. Discovering how to use our pasts to guide and empower us can be tricky. Our culture has evolved into one that spends time looking for who is to blame for our inadequacies. Often times people spend years in therapy or going to workshops to try to discover who or what has made them unhappy. I am all for trying to heal trauma and unfortunate childhood experiences, but the art of reframing them into a model for resiliency is a far greater gift. Negative experiences can become templates for living with better understandings of who we are and what we can be. Unfortunately I feel it is much easier to use parents, siblings, spouses, or co-workers to corroborate reasons why we don’t live our lives to the fullest. We identify “them” as the culprits that have created our inadequacies, and as a result the storyline becomes our reality. I spent many hours being at odds with my mother and how she parented and who she choose as my stepfather. If only I had been aware of how I was wasting precious moments of my life discussing what essentially could not be changed. My saving grace became the work I chose. I became acutely aware of how the perceptions of my past clouded my judgment and how it often made me anxious. I can still fall into some of the “painful past” dialogue when I forget that I can use my past to reinforce how I deal with the present. I have often called this “ finding the bless in the mess”. It is rare to find someone who reached adulthood without having a person in their life that was not dealing with a full deck. In fact I have met some incredibly successful individuals that have survived families that make living in an insane asylum seem like a walk in the park. None of us is given the choice of who will be our family of origin. So it is up to us to learn to shape our lives in the most authenticate way possible, by recalling, reclaiming and recasting our experiences to help serve us not shame us.