All of us have baggage. Things we learned from our family or our culture that aren’t good. Some of these behaviors or attitudes have been passed down from parent to child for generations. How do you change something that seems to be in your dna, your earliest memories and infused through your life. How do you become a cycle breaker?
Babies and bathwater
It can be very difficult when we discover that someone who is meant to love us has also treated us horribly or taught us horribly for years. Perhaps the very culture and community we live in has given us an awful concept of what should be. When we face this reality there is a mourning process. First denial then anger. Sometimes in that anger phase we throw out everything. The good with the bad. It is too painful and too difficult to separate thread by thread what is wrong and what is right. We frequently, at least initially throw the baby out with the bathwater. If in the stress and instability of the moment we cannot emotionally systematically analyze the situation, at least give it space and time. Try not to speak or act in black and white ways. Let it be.
How we react under stress
Just as we are attempting to change our behavior, we also find ourselves completely unmoored. We are under a lot of stress. When we are stressed we tend to do what we are used to and what we have experienced, NOT what we know is right. We do this no matter how much we know it’s right. Be patient with yourself until your new knowledge becomes a part of you enough that it spills out into your behavior. Let yourself slowly slowly change. Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. It does not mean you are stuck forever.
Somehow we assume that we can suddenly handle emotional whiplash. We think we can flip years of experience on it’s head in an instant. We feel horrible for all of the years we have lived the only way we knew how. In our new state we start assuming we should suddenly be perfect. In this process we compare ourselves with the teensy bit we know about other people. Maybe it’s their Facebook page, or the 5 minutes we see them at church. We think we know. We think that we should be able to compare our worst in a stressful formative situation with pintrist. Stop. Do NOT measure too early. If you can, don’t measure at all.
Guilt over ripples
When we are facing our past selves and our past we start to notice all of the effects of our past behavior we feel guilt in spades. We see in our children waves of behavior from our influence.
Trust that you and your ability to change are an incredible example. An example your children will need always. The humility, fragility and honesty of changing are beautiful. They are painful. They are lonely and difficult but your children will have moments in which they will have to change in some way. The hope that you will have given them in your courage to try is overwhelming. Let God heal your children. Let Him be their perfect example. Let your apology and willingness to change stand for itself.
Do not assume you can reinvent the wheel by yourself today
When you are in the process of completely adjusting the way you see the world and how you act in it, it takes time. Yes that’s really frustrating. You are mountain climbing on the inside. That takes work. Lots of work. Years of work. There will be progress. You cannot change generations of foundation in an instant. You may have to pull up mountains of ivy to plant cherry trees. It will take decades before you see fruit. Great decisions are not measured in minutes but in eons. Much of your work, after the initial destruction will be unseen. You will be hesitant to borrow from other systems and families and cultures. You are already doing many good things. What you have done brought you where you are. You will continue to grow and change and progress. Just as you can’t throw away everything about your culture and your family…don’t throw away yourself. Love the people where you are today.
Enjoy the view
Cycle breakers amaze me. They tend to be idealistic and in that they can be very hard on themselves. With all of their mountain climbing they tend to focus hopefully on the future and sometimes get discouraged. Instead of enjoying their progress and taken a few moments to enjoy the view from where they are, they see the seemingly endless slope ahead of them. Stop. Be in the moment. The imperfect, incomplete moment.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.