Growing up in the 80’s, I used to watch a ton of television sitcoms such as Family Ties, the Cosby Show and my favorite the Brady Bunch. My mom would often lecture me that the lessons on TV weren’t real and their silly antics were incomprehensible. When I admired characters like Alex Keaton (Michael J Fox) and Greg Brady (Barry Williams), Mom in contrast would despise them and make snarky remarks on how terrible their acting skills were, often citing how implausible everything was about those shows.
In the real world, my life was far from being perfect. Growing up in a home rife with family violence, any moments of joy was short-lived and followed up with beatings by my dad, shaming from my older siblings, bullying at school or disppapproval from my mom. Thus, perhaps watching the feel-good 30 minute sitcoms with the happy endings was my form of escape from the painful reminder that my days would often end in tears, pain and loneliness. The paradox was that I wanted my parents to see me as the creative, sensitive and intelligent little boy, but I also wanted to be invisible from the hurt, abuse and neglect.
I’m the youngest of three kids and was often referred to as the outspoken child. I cursed at home and voiced my displeasure about the family dynamics when I got older. I grew up trying hard on my own to fight the family system. I knew something wasn’t right (maybe I learned this from watching too much TV!) but I was too young to articulate and process what was really going on.
Fast forward about four decades later, and I still try to comprehend what went on in my childhood. As I sit on the comfy couch in my counsellor’s office on a regular basis, spilling my heart out, I’m beginning to unravel and accept that my life was never meant to be perfect. No one’s life is. I’ve been sitting on this idea for decades that Life is meant to be the perfect road without strife or misery. Maybe I felt I had enough of that growing up and at some point, perfection in Life would replace my unhappiness. The problem with wanting the fantasy of a perfect life is that I failed to see all the goodness that I already have. It’s a lack mentality which so often plagues the thought process of trauma survivors. Thus, I’m always chasing perfection. But I’ve learned that perfection doesn’t exist if I continue to search for it.
It sounds defeated, but ironically, it isn’t.
By slowing down the pursuit of perfection, I’ve learned to become more mindful. Mindfulness helps me appreciate the present and lessens the anxiety of the what if’s and uncertainties life brings. Mindfulness mutes the noisy thoughts that I’m not good enough to be in a relationship, I’m undeserving of feeling happy and this is all going to fail. In short, in helps neutralize self-sabotaging behaviors such as creating drama and chaos that I’m all too familiar with in my belief system growing up. Paradoxically, by ceasing to pursue the perfect life, and by becoming more mindful to what I already have, I inadvertently discover perfection!
These days, I challenge those old belief systems by asking myself two game-changing questions:
What will I lose if there is no chaos?
What will I lose if I heal?
In meditation, I found those answers.
Although my identity in my past revolved around chaos which in turn suggests that I would lose my identity (sense of self), the wiser version of myself sees that I would lose my depression, my anxiety, my insecurities, my fears of loss and lack and that I would lose my old patterns that got me in this feedback loop in the first place. I would lose the false beliefs that I needed chaos to feel comfortable and safe in my relationships.
This evening, I sit with a grin on my face. In fact, I’m a little smug. Every time, I discover something profound as this inside of me, I feel even more connected to myself. Call it self-love or self-care and it fascinates me to unravel the tangled threads in my brain. It’s never too late to learn how to love myself better.