Looking Back to Move Forward

The last week has had me re-examining my life, questioning choices, realizing I may have slipped into old patterns. We all have a vision of what our lives are; where we are going and where we have been. When someone or something destroys your reality, it’s hard to not go backward and rethink every move that got you here.  

No one has a perfect childhood, but the reality is, some are better than others. For me, mine had some really dysfunctional things, but it also had plenty of amazing times: family vacations, dance class, Sunday drives, supportive Mom, Dad’s home-made potato chips, and lots of friendships. The dysfunctional aspects of my childhood I rarely discuss. In all honesty, I’ve put them behind so long ago I question what memories are real and which may not be. And I wonder why it even matters. But those memories or better yet, those experiences, are part of what made me who I am. Why I react to things now at 51 the way I do. It is amazing that things that happened so long ago are still a force in shaping today. 
Am I talking in riddles here? Here’s a prime example. A few weeks ago when my mom was staying with me, something happened between my husband and me which if she wasn’t there, could have been a life changing event. The same thing happened last week and it was this time, with Mom gone, a life changing event. Why wasn’t it when she was here? Because I couldn’t disappoint her. The situation involved just me and my husband. But I knew if I followed through with my beliefs my mom would be upset. I believe – true or not – she would wonder why I put up with the situation at hand. Why I wouldn’t have done something sooner. She has always – in my memory – questioned why I make the choices I make. She’s not being mean, or bad, it is her way of helping me.  
In high school I was in a gifted program. I got to take special classes and have a psychologist give me a test to help guide my future. The only comment I recall from this test, was that I am too dependent on my mom’s opinion. That I had yet to break free and be independent from her expectations and choices. The psychologist recommended we focus on me making independent choices. Not sure if we ever really focused on this, but I think I still have this issue.
So here I am, 51 years old this past week and still trying to please my mother. In looking back, I think I have also grown to be similar with my children. Somehow making them dependent on me and my opinion. That has to stop.  
And this is why sometimes we have to look back to move forward. So although I have spent a good portion of the last 6 days looking backward, today I am looking forward. It is a bit hazy and the path has many obstacles ahead. I need to take what I know from the past but not let it block my journey or be too heavy on my shoulders to move forward. The past helps us understand who we are, but it doesn’t determine who we are. I have that power. I can choose to either let the past control me, or I can use my learnings from the past to control my future. I’m choosing my future. And I am taking control of me and my life. At the same time, I am letting go of controlling those around me. They too must choose their path. 

 All I can do is be a guest on their road.

Homecomings, travel and my grown kids

Today my 23 year old daughter comes home for a week.  She has spent the last 8 months living in Bogota with her Dad’s relatives.  I am so excited to see her, even though it will be rather brief, she, of course, has friends to see and camp to visit.  

In March, we met in Guatemala for a week.  When we booked the trip, there were no plans for her to come home until December.  Not seeing her for over a year was not something I wanted to experience, thus the vacation together.  And I don’t regret it for a second!  Selfishly, I got to spend pretty much every second with her.  I got to watch her converse with a local little boy as he led us through the streets of San Marcos on Lake Atitlan.  I witnessed a young adult conversation between her and one of the hotel workers.  She was confidant in both situations although inside I know she was doubting herself.  She made friends with a young American girl who joined us in our local cooking class.  They were meant to meet each other.  I recall the first day meeting at the airport and driving well over 3 hours to the lake, following chicken buses along the road, she talked non stop.  Telling us stories of her experiences in her new country.  So much to share  with Mark and I.  Very different from the ride back to the airport, 6 days later, when she had no more left to say.  

Spending time with my grown children is something I love!  Although my son lives just a few towns over, I haven’t had that personable time with him in quite a while.  Seems when you live close by, you don’t make the time to just experience life together.  Instead you get caught up with day to day chores of parenting:  helping with things, providing guidance and being a sounding board.  Traveling with adult children is more about experiencing life- together.  Taking time to notice who they are.  Who they are becoming.  

For the last few years I have told my kids this is our last vacation together.  First it was Colorado. Then a surprise trip to Florida.  Than last year my 50th birthday celebration in Michigan.  Each one was the last.  I can lie when I need to….  I don’t ever want to stop traveling with my kids!  My best memories are visiting new places with them.  Seeing the world with them.  

So although I am so excited to have my daughter come home, I am even more excited to take a trip with my son later this summer. And maybe next year, another trip with one or both my kids.  And another and another.  Them coming home will never replace the feelings of wonderment and pure joy I get when experiencing new places with them.