By Cindy Marks
January 27, 2009
How often did I think to myself, “as long as everything goes smoothly, as long as there are few bumps in the road, few bruises to tend to, life is good”. “If I could just navigate my way through life slowly, cautiously, with great ease and simplicity then I’ve won”. No commitments to social functions if they intimidate me, no relationships if I wasn’t totally confident, no activity if I wasn’t truly good at it, and certainly, no questions asked at the risk of sounding uninformed or stupid. These are just some of the rules I subconsciously live by in order to ensure an easy, happy life. But have I actually been successful? Do I live a happy life or do I just exist in a happy life? And most importantly, how am I feeling? Well, most of the time I am tired, worn out, anxious, depressed basically exhausted. All these balls in the air that need to be maintained, balanced, tended to are wearing me down. I ask myself “what’s the alternative?”
I remember one day when I was picking my 5 year old son up from school, as I watched him playing by himself in the playground I was thinking, “He is so joyous”. Then I watched as he approached a group of 8 year old boys he had never met before kicking a soccer ball around the field. He walked right up to them. I was too far to hear what he said but his hands were very animated. Before I knew it he had joined them running down the field kicking the ball and laughing.
I thought to myself, I wish it was so easy for adults. I wish I could do what he just did. Sadness and feeling of exhaustion washed over me. “I am so tired” I thought. Then I heard a voice in my head scream, “Who says I can’t do the same thing?” “Who makes up all these rules when you get older”? “Who makes up all these guidelines that I spend so much energy following?
Actually, the real question is “why?” The answer is so obvious. To control how others see me. If I was to walk up to a group of women and ask if I could join them they might think I am weird or even worse, DESPERATE. That’s when it hit me, these guidelines that I have basically created for myself to protect myself from rejection and judgment are preventing me from living my life. They don’t keep me safe or protected (as my wounded self would like me to believe) they keep me lonely, sad and tired.
My son didn’t ask himself “what if they say no?” or “what if they don’t like me?” or “what if I say something stupid?” before he decided to approach them. I have watched in the past when he has approached other children and they weren’t necessarily open to including him. In that situation he has come to me disappointed and crying, but within minutes he is doing something else joyfully. He doesn’t stop and judge himself or criticize himself. What’s even more ironic is in those situations I will always pick him up hold him and comfort him.
Why if it were happening to me would I choose to judge or criticize myself and tell myself I am not enough? I would never say that to him. I realized in the past I often feel drained and depleted but what I haven’t realized until now is that I am choosing this for myself. I am choosing to live by these guidelines, I am consciously choosing to not do things that make me joyous in exchange for controlling what people say or think of me.
In the park that day my son had made a choice to put his inner child first and he received much joy from that decision while I on the other hand have always chosen to control. I am the creator of these so called guidelines or rules and therefore I am the only person who can make them vanish. Only I can make the choice to live rather than control and if I forget how to do that I always have my children to demonstrate it for me. Many parents think they are the one to teach their children but in reality our children have so much to teach us.
WonderWomanette - Westford - 01/28/2009 03:17 PM
Great article Cindy!
Sonnenschein - 01/28/2009 03:29 PM
I work with young children and over the years I am making the same observation than you had with your son. I am so jealous of how open and free young children are and wish I didn't end up being so reserved, inhibited and self-conscious. I too created these guidelines for myself to protect myself from rejection and judgment I experienced growing up. My dream is to be just like these precious little children. I am slowly starting to do more what would be fun for me and trying not to pay attention what others may think. I am finding out that in lots of instances people don't' even pay too much attention about what I am doing because they are mostly preoccupied about what they do. And the ones who are not are often very supportive and encouraging. It was me who made up all these rules all these years. What a waste of time.
Phyllis - St. Louis - 01/28/2009 03:37 PM
Cindy, I am so thrilled to read this. You have so clearly expressed the prison that so many people live in and never question at all. This is a really powerful column and because I know you, I can hear you speaking this story. This is so wonderful!
cindy - Muttontown - 01/28/2009 06:38 PM
Thank you so much everyone. Your encouragement and support means so much to me.
jeremiah - Acton - 01/29/2009 09:56 AM
Thanks so much for your article and for pointing out the simple and honest way children live life ... that is until we manage to dump a bunch of rules and expectations on them. My four year old grandson who lives across the country will be home for a week long visit in mid February. I think as part of my work in Inner Bonding I will make a point to let him teach me how to play and live life in the moment. I'll let him pick the game or activity instead of me choosing and then I will join in with him on his terms. I suspect he has a great deal to teach me. I would also like to introduce him to his "playful" grandfather.
Thanks for a most helpful insight about rules. Thanks for sharing your struggles and your journey. I also suffer from the tyranny of self imposed rules that limit my ability to simply go with the wondrous flow of life. Your words give me hope and direction for change.
God be with you as you journey
jocep - Holden - 02/04/2009 03:11 PM
Isn't it amazing what our children can show us? Thanks for putting your thoughts out there for all of us. I love watching children play.
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