In the Living Years

I was eight years old when this song was released.  I remember hearing it while reading my mom's version of The Wizard of Oz from when she was a child.  I tell you this because everytime I hear or think of the song, I think of Dorthoy first walking through the Gates of Emerald City. While I might've lacked the maturity to understand all of the lyrics at the time, I think part of me understood that it was a song about discovery and finding a way back to not just your home, but also to the people you love.
Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door
We are stuck in this cycle of blame, generation after generation. Often our parents try to work out the issues they had with their parents on us.
I know that I'm a prisoner
To all my father held so dear
I know that I'm a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him
In the living years
Psychologist Carl Jung said that  “the greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents” -- along with the burden of the hopes and dreams that our parents have for us (which may not be the life/dreams we have for ourselves).
Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got
Working through this cycle and trying to find a way to understand things and people is often a messy, complicated process.
You say you just don't see it
He says it's perfect sense
You just can't get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defense
Sometimes we're so bent on our own perception that we forget to see things through someone else's point of view.  Time changes the imperfect perception into clearer/gentler retrospect.
Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye
There's a huge difference between passive hearing and active listening.  When someone is actively listening, they're not preparing what they want to say next.
So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It's the bitterness that lasts
Holding an unchangeable past against a person is a roadblock to forgiveness -- the most important step in mitigating suffering.
So don't yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don't give up,
And don't give in
You may just be OK
Relationships take work. If you don't have the relationship you want with someone, you both can put in the time and work to understand each other.  It might not bring you closer, but it does contextualize what you can no longer control.
I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say.
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him
In the living years
It is much easier to repair and mend relationships when the people are living. 

As noted in the lyric "every generation blames the one before," there is a cycle between parents and children, a power struggle, an evolution that sometimes doesn't come into focus until the child becomes a parent themself.
(Confession -- I am all teary-eyed even just reading the lyrics. Forget even listening to the song!)

In Karen Anderson's post ("Lovingly Parenting Myself"), she wrote about parenting herself, but I said that "I find that my “inner critical parent” and “inner nurturing parent” don’t have proper role models or scripts to follow."
In Medicinal Marzipan's post, she asked "what you wish you could give to yourself, if you had limitless time and resources." I wrote "The first thing that came to mind if I had limitless time and resources would be to invent a time machine, go back in history, and teach my parents how to be healthy human beings before they had kids. Or to go back in time before my mother died to be able to both confront and forgive her (writing accusatory/forgiving blog posts only goes so far). On a more practical note, I'd probably send my father and brother to somewhere like the Biggest Loser Resort (as they do not have the required ovaries to go to GMFR) to deal with their eating/health issues at large so we can move forward as a healthy family, not just a family doing their best to cope."

It's not that I didn't have parents that weren't constructively critical or nurturing, but it's that they had their own burdens given to them by their parents that manifested in them as kids and as parents. I recognize that, I understand that. I'm not blaming them for the way I am. Blame cannot change things. I do work through a lot of family issues in this blog in the hopes of understanding who I am, how I came to be, and what is necessary to escape the ways I perpetuate some of the harmful behaviors. However, if I did have the opportunity to change my history without changing who I am today, I'd wish more than anything that my parents (both my living father and my deceased mother) had the same opportunity and desire that I have had to discover myself and to work through the disordered eating/healthy living/self-image issues.

Karen also suggested writing "an essay on your blog on the role of self-love in your journey to health." This reminded me of my Love Letter to Myself. The exercise last February wasn't about finding the things I loved about myself, it was about giving myself the permission to look. This is the foundation (I think) of any meditative practice -- the giving of permission to investigate. If we are stuck in "it is the way it is, and I can't change it"-ness, we become stuck in our own suffering. If we are stuck in our own suffering, we will never experience the freedom available to us unclouded by judgment and unfettered from fear.

I feel like any time we have the courage and ability to step away from our stuck lives -- at retreats like Green Mountain at Fox Run, Blue Cliff, Spirit Rock, or even places like the Biggest Loser Resorts -- we benefit not only from what we can learn there, but from the practice of giving ourselves permission to investigate and possibly evolve.

So while this post has somewhat of a universal appeal, I want to end on a personal note:

Dad --

I do love you (and I'm writing it here so everyone reading knows this). You are a really good person as well as a good father. When mom died, you did the best you could to provide for me and my brother. I recognize that (1) you didn't have the best role model on fatherhood; (2) you were learning how to be a single parent on the fly, (3) you had an uphill battle in gaining our trust and respect, and (4) I was (and still am) very challenging.

I want you to know that my blog isn't an indictment of the past. This is the way I've chosen to figure things out for myself. Any time someone tries to work through their issues, it's going to be messy and imperfect. I've just decided to add another layer to it by making it public in the hopes that someone can benefit from my struggle.

Unfortunately (?), I will continue to challenge you when it comes to your health and wellbeing because I want you to be a part of my life for much longer than mom was. I live with the grief of one parent having died young and the fear of your unhealthy lifestyle robbing me out of my other parent. While it doesn't always come out as so, I'm pushing you to lose weight, get fit, and find happiness (rather than asking you) not just out of love but the selfish desire to have you live (and thrive) until you're 100 or more.

I want to give the gift of self-love to you. I can't wrap it. I can't hand it to you. I can only hope that I've given you the courage to look. I want you to feel the same freedom, confidence, and joy that I have felt. This is how you become the best parent possible -- by living a passionate, exceptional, and inspired life. And if you need it, this is my permission for you to explore how to define yourself as your own person, not just as my father.

With all my love,


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<3 Robby