Being Loved is a Messy Process
By far the most memorable scene in “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” for me was when Mr. Rogers asked Lloyd to take a minute to think about the people who loved him into being. In that moment of silence, everyone on screen, and I swear, everyone in the theater responded to his request.
That moment stuck with me, even weeks after I saw the movie. It made me think about the convoluted mess of emotions I’ve carried around for decades regarding my parents, the two people who loved me into being, quite literally. While I’ve worked through many of the uglier ones, there’s still a tangled mess I’ve yet to truly accept. It occurs to me now I don’t really need to wade through them any more. I simply need to be grateful for the people who elicited those feelings, and let them go.
They served their purpose. They’ve impacted the many iterations of me over the years. But both of them are long past eliciting new emotions in me. As I re-read those words, I realize they sound as if I’m dismissing my parents who, not unlike me were a convoluted mess of suppressed emotions. Unlike me, they chose to opt out of the mess instead of taking the rather painful, and oft times, messier route of actually dealing with those emotions. In many ways, I believe the choices they made gave me the push I needed to deal with mine.
Impacted by Countless Generations of Conditional Love
I believe Mr. Rogers intended for us to look, not only at our parents, but to the generations before them; to the aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who helped shape us into who we are today. Love comes in many forms, or so I’ve discovered. Some of it is unconditional, but frankly, that’s the smallest part of the love we’re given. It is our choice, however, whether to perpetuate that habit, or choose to remove conditions on the love we, ourselves give.
If I’m completely honest, I believe there’s only one person in the world who has ever given me their love unconditionally, and that’s my daughter Heather. Though the circle of friends I attract these days comes close, I know they, too have deep-seated habits and conditions they may not even realize any more than I’m aware of any conditions I put on my love for them.
When I look back at my parents with both judgement and rose-colored glasses removed, (or as much as it’s possible to remove) I see two people who came into the world already laden with a lot of emotional baggage packed for them by previous generations who hadn’t learned how to unpack their own. They were ill-prepared to deal with a child who wore her emotions on her sleeve, cried easily, and when all else failed, erupted into what I can now say were rather impressive displays of anger. Admittedly, my parents were less than impressed, but then, I know now, any display of emotions made them uncomfortable.
Letting Go Is the Sincerest Form of Love
When I look back at all the people who loved me in their own way, or often, as best they could, I realize they didn’t consciously put conditions and restrictions on their love. It was simply all they knew. Many gave up on me when I failed to live up to their expectations. In a way, that’s love too. It freed me to figure out who I was, and what I needed to shed or adopt in order to become who I am today, rough edges and all.
It doesn’t matter why, but sometimes letting go is the sincerest form of love. It was something neither of my parents ever mastered. Somehow, clinging to me in some way, albeit dysfunctionally may have helped them stay afloat as long as they did. It gave them what I consider a weird kind of purpose, but for them, it worked…until it was no longer enough.
There have been a few times over the last 26 years that I realized how much my mother did for me by letting go; by giving up on her clinging, her mood swings, her drama, and her guilt flinging. She freed me to fight my own dragons without being one of them any longer. Eventually, I learned she also freed me to deal with my tangled emotions and drag them out one by one; something my entire family believed was inappropriate under any circumstances.
Owning My Emotions
Her last, probably unconscious act of love gave me something I wasn’t allowed to own for the first 39 years of my life; my emotions and feelings. Granted, I floundered around for another 16 years before I realized the shackles and expectations had been removed. I remained locked in the emotionless box of familiarity until circumstances and the unconditional love of my daughter forced me to start loving myself because of my mushy, sensitive nature instead of trying to love myself in spite of it.
Mr. Rogers told countless children he loved them the way they were, and he meant every word. I think there were many times the children he spoke to were struggling to love even themselves, and he gave them a golden key. I know I spent a lot of years mired in self-loathing, believing I wasn’t good enough, and couldn’t do anything right. How many children get stuck in that bear trap and never find their way out short of chewing off a limb?
I wish there was a way to tell every single child they’re perfect the way they are. To keep every child from ever having to suffer hunger, abandonment, or abuse. Sure, the experience makes some stronger, but it makes too many harder, or crueler. It leaves too many broken and unable to see a path that leads to wholeness—whatever that is.
If nothing else, I’ve taken Mr. Rogers’ words to heart, and will remind myself to take a minute to remember the people who loved me into existence, not just at the beginning of my life, but through all the twists and turns, broken roads and smooth ones, switchbacks and dead ends that led me to where I am today.
Gratitude: The Most Powerful Tool in My Arsenal
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for people like Fred Rogers who put things in terms simple enough for a child to understand, and direct enough to get through to adults who’ve allowed life and circumstances to harden their hearts unnecessarily.
- I’m grateful for my parents who loved me the best they could, and gave me the tools to find my own way.
- I’m grateful for the people I’ve met throughout my life. Some loved me. Some hated me. Some tried to use me. They all taught me more about myself than they’ll ever know.
- I’m grateful I learned how to let my feelings and emotions out, and that they aren’t something to be ashamed of at all.
- I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, compassion, acceptance, joy, community, forgiveness, lessons, challenges, peace, freedom, balance, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward