Be better than the parent or parents you had.
I don’t say this to disrespect any parents out there, quite the contrary. I say this to honor your legacy and to encourage your children to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them. See, as a young person (well, if you consider 31 young) I find myself growing increasingly aware that people around me are dying. I realize that we all are dying, but I’ve been having these “moments of awareness” where I realize the person in front of me has gotten older. It’s a chilling feeling because then I come face to face with my own mortality which has encouraged me to work harder, embrace failure, and learn from the mistakes and lessons of those gone by.
I often think of my grandma and the wisdom she brought me near the end of her life. But, more recently, I have been starting to realize the wisdom my mom has taught me throughout the last few months. As she’s “getting older” I realize that she has years of wisdom in her as I see her body start to decline and cognition go with it. She has moments, like 2 days ago, that scare the hell out of me because nobody (her Neurologist included) seems to realize the extent of her confusion when it comes. I think it’s another TIA, but can’t be sure. I just know the harsh reality as she reminds me of my step-grandmother who I saw when she started having confusing days and then about 3 years later was gone. I try not to think about these things, but if I didn’t then the harsh reality would kill me. Some call it worrying and I call it anticipating and preparing for the fight. I digress.
All of these recent issues with my mom has caused me to start having conversations with her. Last night, we had a conversation and I said “Mom, if I never tell you anything else that rests in your heart, I want you to know that you’ve been a better mother than your mom and, because of you, I’ll be a better parent than you and my child will be a better parent than me. I will stop the cycle of victimization in our family.”
Every family has a story.
I know it, you know it, we all know it. To be dysfunctional, abused, hurt, not supported enough, etc. is the norm today. Broken people are the norm today and with that norm comes the realization that broken families are the norm today. But my goal, as a man and as a son who struggles with mental illness, is to continue to work on myself and on changing, growing, and taking care of myself mind, body, and spirit because my mom’s health has been affected tremendously from years of not caring about herself and not loving herself. It must stop with me.
I am encouraged by my cousin who chose to have Bariatric Surgery and has lost well over 100lbs. She stood up against the messages we’ve received since we were children “our family is fat”, “you’ll probably be like us”, etc. We’ve all heard those types of family messages, but it’s our choice to let them become our messages. The beauty of every new generation is that it has the potential and power to change life and make it better or to settle for the status quo. I am choosing to be better than my mom, but it’s because she’s believed in me and loved me so unconditionally in my shit that I can have the courage and confidence to make my life and myself better.
Mental illness, like obesity, runs in my family.
I don’t know that I can stop the genetics, but I tell you this, I will no longer live in fear of having children because they may be born bipolar or schizophrenic. I will no longer let illness dominate my family, because even though I’m afflicted with it, I am also better than it and will continue to get up every time I get knocked down because I will not quit.
My mom has succumbed to the illness most of her life, but I’ve taken responsibility and fought mine. I fight so hard because she’s taught me what I don’t want to be. I thanked her for that recently and told her that she’s been a wonderful mom. She wasn’t always, but because of her battles, I’ve been able to learn from her wounds.
I heard a group say one time “God never wastes a hurt” and as I get older, I’m starting to realize this. I’m starting to realize that all the stuff I went through can serve a purpose.
Be better than your parents. They weren’t bad people, but even if they were, they can offer you gifts of experience and wisdom that no book, talk show, or another person can teach you.
What have you learned from your parent(s)?
From my mom, I’ve learned two things: I’m loved beyond conditions and, no matter what, mom would sacrifice any and everything to see me happy. I’ve also learned that I have to take care of myself so my future family will not live with a victim but be challenged by a confident, wise, and healthy man.
Thank you, Mom, for teaching me that it’s OK to strive to be better and that no matter how many times I fall, you’ll always look at me and say “I love you son.” as you continue with the utterance “You’re meant for more than this..”
Be better and be well my friends,