POD #3: Our Unlived Lives
Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent. —Carl Gustav Jung
Do you have an unlived life within you? What is it? What does that look like?
Do you feel like your unlived life influences your children? Did your parents’ unlived lives influence yours?
This is more of a struggle for me to write about because I think that I live true to myself. I like to believe that there is no unlived life inside of me. However, listening to Brené Brown’s new book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging, I realize if I’m completely honest with myself that isn’t true. Yes, I am learning to truly belong to myself, but I’m not there yet. A quote from the book, screamed loudly at me “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.”
My parent’s had unlived lives, and neither will have the opportunity to ever change that. My mother was a high school graduate, my father an 8th grade drop out. Although I am not sure their unlived potential was what drove me, I completed six years of college. When I started pursuing my dreams, my mother shared many of her unlived life dreams with me. Never in a longing, regretful way, but in an encouraging, reach for the stars kind of way.
When my children were born, I was just a teenager. I was a baby raising babies, with three children by the time I turned twenty-one. They altered my life in ways that still leave me in awe. When my children hit their formative years, I wanted them to have the life I never did. I went to their school events, enrolled them in extracurricular activities. If I couldn’t be there, I did my best to have someone else in the stands for them. I picked them up (except the times I forgot) from school and church activities. I asked about their day and talked with them about everything. I let them know I love them – every time we talk. I took them to church, I drove their friends around. We did slumber parties and community activities. We shopped for prom dresses. We would sing in the car with the radio blaring. We laughed together. We took road trips and vacations. When then became adults, as much as I want them close by – I encourage them whole-heartedly in their dreams and pursuits even if it means they are far away from me.
I love being a mother, but I do believe my unlived life as and older child and teenager definitely influenced my parenting and therefore the lives of my children. As a parent with adult children, it is hard for me to have fun. I have learned how to relax over the past few years, with hammocks, motorcycles, a movie alone, writing, swimming or even taking a nap. But laughter and fun take work. My kids, grandkids and nieces and nephews sometimes help get my guard down, but when I say that it is a struggle that is putting it mildly.
I love life to the fullest, I enjoy my life daily, honestly. But after loosing both of my parents, I have started to really look at who I am and where I’m going. I realize how much I have lived life feeling like an outsider looking in. I have never felt like I belonged, and because of that I changed who I was trying to be what I thought others expected of me. Not intentionally, but gradually over time I have forgotten how to be who I really am.
I think back on my life pre-children, and know that I was a crazy, carefree person. Maybe I was still a little more on the serious side than others, but I knew how to laugh and have fun with my friends. I was bold and maybe a little more brash than I should have been. I was who I was and offered no apologies. My unlived life is an adult life full of risk, adventure, fun, friends, and lots laughter. My unlived life is discovering my adult self and not changing who I am, but learning to truly be who I am.
This post is prompted by Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders.