God is my spiritual compass or my GPS leading the way. When I’m going in the wrong direction or something doesn’t feel right inside, my intuition says, “recalculate” turn around or go in another direction. I am learning to trust my feelings to guide me because feelings are a gift from God and an important part of my GPS system.
Last December when I visited my family in Rhode Island, I said a prayer, “Lord, heal me of my need to be appreciated, seen and acknowledged in my family.” I wrote in my journal along with the prayer that I wanted to stop looking to others, especially my daughter, Mary, to appreciate me and acknowledge what I did for her. I also wrote an affirmation, “I love, accept and appreciate myself as a mother.” I needed to “recalibrate” and change direction. God heard my prayer and the affirmation worked. Here is what has transpired since then.
I just returned home from a family vacation in Rhode Island. I told my children that this was the best vacation ever for me. As we all know, family dynamics and “old patterns” can take years to shift as it has in my family. The unfortunate thing is they may never shift. Put divorce in the equation after 30 years of marriage and there is a whole new dimension to the healing journey.
Even though my children were young adults when my husband and I got divorced, the younger ones had a hard time accepting the divorce. They were angry and I sometimes got the brunt of their anger. It took several years of prayer and sending them love to shift this. Being the adult and knowing they needed to grieve the loss of their parent’s marriage, I kept quiet and tried to give them their space to deal with their feelings.
It is my belief that I teach people how to treat me. For example, if I don’t respect myself, others will not respect me. If I don’t appreciate myself, others will not appreciate me. It all starts with me. When I don’t appreciate myself, I look to others to fill me and it is NEVER enough. I looked to my children to appreciate me because I hadn’t learned to give the appreciation to myself first.
As time went on with the family dynamics, I realized that I needed to speak up to my children and set boundaries. I needed to tell them that their behavior was causing me pain and I wanted them to stop speaking to me the way they did. I remember exactly when and how it shifted. I was having Easter dinner with my two younger children and they started their usual antics with me. I couldn’t take it anymore and broke down at the table and ran to my room in tears. I don’t think they knew how much I was hurting and allowing them to see my pain shifted everything in our relationship.
I love my family very much and I know they love me. But there was a certain “dynamic” of sarcasm (that they thought was funny) in the family that left me feeling like an “outsider” for many years. Even though I was their mother, I didn’t feel a part of the family and was very quiet and couldn’t be myself in their presence. I sometimes was the brunt of their jokes and perhaps the scapegoat. It was very painful. But as I healed and learned to love, respect and accept myself, things began to change in the family.
It took years to shift the family dynamics and patterns. I prayed, sent love, detached, cried, confronted and let go and let God. The bottom line is that I could not change other people. All I could change was myself and that was a big enough job.
Several months ago, I was led to start an “Appreciation” practice at night. Right before I fall off to sleep I mentally review the day and think about things that I appreciate about myself. It may be something very small like I smiled at the person in the bank who didn’t look very happy or I did something that was difficult and took courage. Some nights the list is pretty long and that feels really good. It forces me to think about the things I like and appreciate about myself, rather than what I didn’t do right or need to change. What I appreciate grows and appreciates!
Doing the “Appreciation” practice nightly has helped me during the day to think about what I’m going to put on my list that night. If I am tempted to gossip or judge someone, I stop myself because I want to put that on my appreciation list that night.
This trip with my family was a testimony to the inner work and healing I have been doing for so many years. I not only experienced appreciation from my children in words of affirmations and how much I meant to them, but they showed their love for me in their behaviors. I felt respected, heard, affirmed and loved. It was truly amazing.
I spent time alone with each of my children and we did something fun together. Mary and I went to lunch and sat on the rocks overlooking the ocean at Beaver Tail. I was so touched when she “thanked me” for how she was raised. Her partner, Glen, thanked me for being such a “strong woman” when I left to go back home. I went to dinner with my son, Jimmy and daughter-in-law, Lara, and ex-husband and had an amazing night. It truly felt like a miracle because I felt comfortable in my own skin. How good is that! My son, Brian, and I went to Boston and had lunch together and had a wonderful time. My son, Tim, who lives in Boise, Idaho couldn’t make the trip and his presence was missed.
I share this story with you to give you hope and inspiration. Don’t give up if you are struggling with family patterns and dynamics. I know the pain and struggle and I now know the power of love. God has changed me and my family one person at a time. Remember, you can’t change other people, you can only change yourself. Give yourself what you need, whether that is self-love, acceptance or appreciation. You deserve it.