Giving Up Self-Defeating Legacies

No pain, no gain! Those words were drummed into me by my father so many times, I long ago stopped counting up the reasons why he said what he said. Despite the untruth of them, after a while, they started to sink in. Do anything long enough, and it will become your habit, even the phrases you think with, and that influence the way you feel about your life. For the first forty years of my life, his words determined how I felt, what I did, and how I reacted to circumstances, but not in the way he would have liked them to, I am certain. Because my father loved me.
It took me a long time to shake off the effects of taking “No pain, no gain” so seriously. The impact of a violent childhood in the slums of New Haven, major surgery after four years on daily pain medication, three divorces, and as many rejection slips as there must have been times when my father said his favorite phrase, had to go, because it was me, or them. It also took me a long time to forgive him for handing me down a legacy that at first glance, doesn’t seem all that kind. Yet in my new relationship to it, it was.
What I realized was that everything in our lives regardless, can either be used as a challenge to be happier, or a reason to feel sorry for ourselves. For years, I used my Father’s mantra as a way to point out how difficult my life was. I believed his words to be true, rather than to simply observe that he had said them, and then on my own, choose how I would respond to them. No pain, no gain, was his mantra, after all, and there was no law in the Universe that said I had to adopt his offered gift.
One of the hidden gifts of my father’s legacy was that from the moment I chose my response to No pain, no gain, I also gained something else. Given that his wording had been so powerful for me, after overcoming it, I gained the ability to also overcome all the other phrases the many people around me were constantly offering to the Universe. Their own negative legacies that were handed down to them by their families. We have all heard them. “There’s not enough money,” or, “That’s the way things always turn out,” or, “You know you can’t do that,” any and all limiting beliefs that have no basis in any reality other than inside of the mind of the person who believes them, period.
Yes, they are real, of course they are, but only to the believer of them! What an eye opener that was! Now I could hear the words of my Father and the people around me, discern what worked for my happiness, and then simply choose my response to them no matter what. Sometimes it was to go into agreement with them, and other times it was to purposely decide what my own mantra for living was. I think more than anything else, whether my Father knew it or not, that was the gift he wanted to impart to his son; the strength to choose for myself.
The moment I chose my responses to any words spoken, or any circumstances happening around me, and left whatever offered gift, if it was self-defeating in nature, with the giver, my life changed. No, it wasn’t one of those light-in-the-sky, transformational, mind-blowing moments, that caused fireworks to go off. It was more like the changes most of us have. This shift in perspective occurred over time, and with a lot of hard work on my part. Hard work, but not necessarily pain. Because the only gain you get with pain, is more pain, and I didn’t want any more of that!
Slowly, I realized that what my Father said was the way he viewed the world, and not the way I was required to view it. It was his choice to be in constant pain over what had happened in his life, and out of acknowledging his own freedom to choose for himself, I gained my own. By honoring his choices, I was freed to choose how I wanted to relate to what had happened to me, and most importantly, how I would respond to what was to come in my future. In this pain-free way, I could finally appreciate all the good things that my Father did do for me, and at the same time, handle his brief reaction to my new point of view, when he was at first threatened by my unexpected buoyancy.
The moment he overcame that reaction, and was happy for me, was one of those moments when I knew once and for all, the only truth of our relationship that really mattered, and that truth was; that he loved me, and that I loved him. That’s when he too was able to respect my choices without further ado. Had I only known this, I would have chosen to adopt my newly chosen mantra forty years earlier than when I finally let go of his words!
My Father’s words were like a blue Volvo. Buy a blue Volvo, and then like magic, all of a sudden it seems as if half the world is also driving a Volvo, as car after similar car begins to appear in your awareness. Where were all these blue Volvos, and other colors of Volvo before you bought the car? The same place all that pain was before I started to pay attention to my Father’s mantra when I was younger. Until I adopted his words, that pain was not in my awareness, yet still all around me. Once I sold the car, the same as once I gave up his mantra, the blue Volvos stopped appearing, and for his mantra, the pain when away! The invitation is to either sell your Volvo if it’s causing you pain, or to tell a different story about it. In the case of our families, we have to adopt a different story about our loved ones, obviously, because we can’t exactly sell them off to get new ones, nor would we even want to.
What words have impacted your life, and still do, regardless of your success or age? Whatever they are, there is always a way to put a new spin on an old record, and relate to whatever has happened in our pasts, in a new way. To in short, tell a new story about that past, not to change it. Because nothing changes in that past, except how you decide to now relate to it, and in turn, feel about it. Had I remained bitter about my Father’s gifts to me, I would have let my past determine what my future was to be like, and I was certain that I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want to live a bitter life, regretting incidents and thinking about how bad it was. And that’s the key word: was. Whatever was, is no more, and in turn, does not need to be gone over and over and over anymore, regardless of what your relationship to it has been, or for how long it has been a certain way.
The instant when we decide to create a new relationship to our pasts, that’s when we realize how free we really are. Keep all that reality stuff about not being able to change the past, because none of us can anyway! And as if buying into that “but it’s reality” stuff, as if there were only one reality out there, not six billion of them, served us in any way. Because the truth is, regardless of not being able to change the past, any one of us can change our futures! And that’s where our real power is. No pain, no gain? No way! Let’s have some of that gain, and how about, right now, in this newly chosen, now moment future! Now that’s a story worth telling!