POSITIVE OUTLOOK: Lessons Learned From Monkey Bars
“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point to move forward.”-C.S. Lewis
The message from the author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series has a powerful meaning to this once upon a time little girl who was so determined to traverse the several feet of horizontal metal bars in her elementary school playground that she would often cling to the dirt encrusted structure, arms trembling, hands gripping to the point of blisters, just to prove she could. What a triumph when I actually made it all the way without dropping down into the sand below. It took months as I remember, but at the time, it felt like it was worth it.
Part of that was sheer will and determination, part proving that asthma, flat feet and pigeon toes weren’t going to get the best of me. The initial diagnosis came around age 4 or 5, not long after my grandmother died. She had been like a third parent and we had all lived together until a stroke ended her life. I have been processing the impact of her death a great deal 50 years later, it having been a benevolent specter that had me puzzled at times. It is only in the past few days that it became crystal clear.
I had been speaking with a friend about my tendency to keep from making waves, avoiding inconveniencing anyone, taking up too much space or time, (as much as I love being center stage) or leaving messes for anyone else to clean up. Each had been building blocks to my budding co-depen-dance (as I call it, since co-dependence does sometimes seem like a dance). My aha moment arrived when I realized that following my grandmother’s passing, I made an unconscious decision to ‘be a good girl’ so as not to be a burden on my parents who I knew must have been terribly sad, even though they didn’t appear to be overwhelmed with grief and kept on keepin’ on. That pattern continued throughout my life as I became an overachiever, a standout in school and a competitive swimmer (which did wonders for my lungs). What kept me motivated was the applause and an underlying fear of disappointing anyone, but most especially my parents.
Since our parents have died (dad in 2008 and mom in 2010), my sister and I have been reconstructing memories from our childhood without benefit of doing any fact checking with them. With 2 ½ years difference in our ages, we are often worlds apart in our perceptions of events. Lately she has been sharing her own feelings and observations and some have stunned me with their clarity and sometimes painful poignancy. Although we had the blessing of being raised by loving and demonstrative parents, with a large circle of extended family and friends, supportive community, each of has our own little set of attitudes and behaviors that don’t always serve us in positive ways. We made decisions about these events and what they meant and then acted on them, with the resulting repercussions in our choices regarding relationships, careers, parenting, health, money and habits. They also shaped our sense of self and the relationship with the women we have faced in the mirror each morning. In an effort to prove something, each of us created areas of pain in our own lives that might not have occurred had we interpreted and gleaned meaning differently than we had when we were children.
These days, wisdom prevails and she and I are far better able to choose again. Back to the monkey bar analogy. I see them as physical, emotional, mental and spiritual exercise equipment that can strengthen us if used appropriately or as implements of torture for palms (I can still feel the ouchy blisters) and feelings, since it is so easy to cling to the familiar even if it hurts like hell. It is when I have been willing, hand over hand to move to the next bar and the next and next, sometimes surrendering to the soft sand beneath, only to get back on the bars again and patiently continue until I get to the other end of it, that I can look back from whence I came and smile with satisfaction.
Edie Weinstein, (Bliss Mistress) is a colorfully creative journalist, inspiring transformational speaker, and opti-mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility, interfaith minister, social worker, cosmic concierge, BLISS coach, the host of the radio show called It’s All About Relationships on Vivid Life Radio www.vividlife.me, and the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary. www.liveinjoy.org