'Tis the season for gift giving (for those who celebrate Christmas), so I wanted to write a bit on the inheritance of emotional "gifts" rather than physical ones. :)
As an adult, you'll likely realize your parents did not give you everything you needed to thrive in life, and I'm not talking about money. Obviously, one needs more than money to thrive. What does one need? My retreat leader Lacy said during our meditation retreat in May:
"Life is really about loving and receiving love and giving and receiving forgiveness, and if you cannot do those things, you will be blocked."
Many parents, even if they're writing tuition checks, struggle in the areas of love and forgiveness. (Many people struggle in the areas of love and forgiveness, myself included.)
Maybe, for example, your mother is judgmental. Or envious of others. Or your dad gets angry easily. (Judgment, envy, and anger are fear-based, and essentially block love.)
Or maybe your parents hold grudges and can’t forgive.
Or perhaps, your parent was (or is) an addict. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I think most addicts struggle with self love. If you can't love your self, it is arguably impossible for you to show love to others.
So, maybe, as an adult, you struggle in these areas, too. You've inherited these "gifts." You criticize your husband, just like your mom criticized you dad. You get angry at your kids, like your dad got angry at you. You're envious of neighbors, like your mom was. You can't forgive your father, just like your father couldn't forgive his father. And on and on.
Noticing inherited patterns is a big part of spiritual growth. You can't break patterns if you can't see patterns. Many of your emotional obstacles likely are inherited, and it's healthy to acknowledge this. It's healthy to identify negative emotional behaviors as "gifts" you may have received—but no longer want in your life.
But it's not healthy to blame your parents. Although it's natural to say: It's all my mom's fault! Or: I only have this issue because of my dad! Or: Why didn't my parents give me something better than this shit??? Those responses aren't really helpful.
You’re like the petulant child under the Christmas tree ungrateful for any presents she did receive...because other people’s parents gave them puppies!
All parents have gaps. (Some parents are entirely absent from their children's lives.) Likely, those gaps are areas where your parents do not have the capacity to give you anything better. For example, they cannot give you the gift of showing you how to forgive others easily if they, themselves, don't know how to forgive others easily.
Elizabeth Gilbert says it beautifully:
"It is not possible for somebody to give you something they themselves do not possess."
A physical example: My parents are hardworking and my sisters and I were always raised with enough money for what we needed. But my family didn’t splurge. We hardly ever ate out, didn’t get expensive clothes, and I was expected to figure out a way to pay for my college. I grew up with financial stability, and am eternally grateful to my parents for that gift. BUT—some people's parents give them $3 million Brooklyn brownstones, am I right?
Complaining your father didn't show you how to love, when your father doesn't know how to love, is like me calling my sisters and saying:
"Can you believe this shit? Another day goes by, and mom and dad still haven't given me a brownstone!"
That would be obviously and absurdly ridiculous. How could I be mad my parents don’t give me what they don't have? YET, it's the same thing people do when they constantly blame their parents for their own emotional shortcomings.
"I'm judgmental and it's all my mom's fault. Mom should've showed me how not to be so judgmental."
"I'm angry and it's all my dad's fault. Dad should've showed me how not to be so angry."
Don't you think that your mother would stop being so judgmental if she knew how to? Living in a constant state of judgment is difficult.
Don't you think your father would stop being so angry if he knew how to? Anger is exhausting.
Don't you think your mother and father want to know how to love and forgive?
Without knowing how to love or forgive, you are blocked. (I don't consider that an opinion.)
So, rather than blame your parents for their gaps—why not fill your own gaps? You’re an adult. Buy your own damn puppy. [I mean metaphorically but IRL is probably fine too. :)]
Because in 2018 I had this amazing realization: There are people who deeply know how to Love and forgive. There are people who know how to release anger, jealousy, and judgment. There are EXPERTS on these topics!!
And YOU can learn from THEM! Who are these teachers who profoundly understand Love and Forgiveness?? Links to their books:
And many, many more.
And then—the beautiful thing—once you fill your own gaps, you possess these qualities, so you can give these gifts of how to Love and how to forgive to others, including to your own children if you have them.
Namaste, homies. And Merry Christmas if you celebrate. I won't be writing on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, but I'll speak with you in January.
Sending you as much Love as I presently have the capacity to send from Brooklyn.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. "We are born of Love; Love is our mother."—Rumi
p.p.s. If you want to discuss any of the books I linked to, feel free to email me. Or if you have questions on meditation retreats or meditation in general. Daily meditation has been a key tool for me in cultivating a more loving, forgiving approach to life. No time like the new year to start a new practice. Or—more accurately—no time like right now. :)
p.p.p.s. My favorite YouTube yoga teacher Adriene of Yoga with Adriene is doing a free 30-Day Yoga journey in January, if you're interested. :)