When I was young, I was brash, idealistic, and chock-full of self-righteousness. I was going to change the world.
Yes, I know. Every young person feels this way (especially in my generation).
But I’m not exaggerating when I say that I—Julia–I really knew what was Right. I was really right.
And part of being right meant that others were wrong.
Lots of people were wrong but in particular, I thought my parents were wrong. I rejected my parent’s viewpoints and focused on the differences between us.
My parents made it easy. They raised me at a distance. My mother, fogged by drugs, alcohol, and depression, was absent. My father, busy with his career or, eventually, busy starting a new life without us, was absent too. I had lots of ammunition and I knew how to use it.
So I made my fight with them personal by closing them out and making them non-existent. I even disowned them.
I caused a lot of pain.
And eventually, like (almost) everyone, I grew up. I realized that, ahem, maybe I wasn’t as right as I thought.
My opinions became more nuanced. I learned compassion. I made amends and asked for forgiveness.
If this was the end of my story, it would be an ordinary and boring story about growing up. But this is not a story about becoming a grown-up. This is a story about living in the gray area—neither black nor white.
This is a story about living smack in the mess of being fully human.
Accepting All Parts of Our History
It’s confusing to embrace the consequences of my youth.
I can’t deny that I believed in the righteousness of my opinions. In fact, some of them I still believe. But equally, I see their errors.
So how do I make peace with the pain I caused by rejecting my parents, without committing the same sin by rejecting my youthfulness? Is it possible to embrace the passion I felt as a young person and to hold the wisdom of my age now? To jibe the past and the present—with honesty and clarity, without needing to deny one or re-write the other?
It’s a practice of non-duality to hold all the events along the timeline of my life true, to embrace my actions exactly as they were and exactly as they are now–neither part right nor wrong, both parts as they are.
And it’s a practice of acceptance. Of course I must accept my parents and myself, my past and my present. But most challenging, I must accept change.
No matter how Right I wanted to live my life, I ended up with a mess. The only way this mess can exist exactly as it is, is by accepting the gray areas of life. It’s messy and humbling and definitely not black-or-white.
A Story of Love: Acceptance
Recently, Lori Deschene of TinyBuddha.com asked for stories about love challenges. She wanted to hear about forgiveness and authenticity, anger and acceptance.
I wrote a story about my Dad.
Well, actually, it’s a story about scorning my Dad because of a AAA card and later, um, realized that AAA was not as bad as I thought.
As I wrote my story, I remembered the process of learning to accept my father how he is. Later I realized that there is a second part to my story—accepting myself.
I acted in many ways which hurt my father. And while I wish I hadn’t caused him pain, I don’t exactly want to ask for forgiveness. I’m not sorry for being brash and idealistic. It’s not a mistake being young.
Instead, I want to embrace my whole self, my brash self and my wiser self. Both sides simultaneously.
My youth, for all its good and its bad, was a manifestation of where I was at the time. Causing my father pain made me who I am now. I couldn’t have gotten here without wading in those waters.
So I need to accept myself, my full timeline. Everything that got me here.
As I grow up, I learn over and over that there are no definitive answers. Life is messy and incongruous. People make mistakes that aren’t mistakes. People hurt and love each other both at the same time.
The only way to feel the full potential of life is to be in all of it as it is.
But the more gray I embrace, the more capacity I have for truly living.