Monday, July 23, 2012

“Expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.”

Driving to my friends the other day, this phrase popped into my head. I laughed out loud. This is a ridiculous phrase, isn’t it? This was a common saying in my family. Growing up, I heard it over and over. And now, that I’m an adult, I thought I’d grown up and away from this phrase.

Maybe, I have.

Because when it popped up like a bubble in my thought stream, I didn’t go with its flow. I didn’t listen to it or swallow it, ignore it or get angry like I did growing up.

I saw it. And I laughed. That old thought bubble just popped and disappeared into thin air.

But it did get me wondering about all those common phrases and sayings that we all hear as children and adults. Some are wonderful. If you’re like me, you copy them out and post them on your fridge, by your desk, in your studio. Some are not wonderful. They can hurt, scare or anger you. If you’re like me, you try to ignore them or fight them. If you do that, too, you know that it doesn’t make them go away. In fact, I think it makes them stick to your thought stream like a post a note to your fridge.

Here’s what happened to me that changed the flow of that old thought.

First, I laughed at it. I didn’t try to, it just happened but when it did, something changed in me. Somehow my own laughter at the absurdity of the saying turned it into harmless confetti that was now free to float away from me.

Second, I shared the experience with my friend. We both laughed. And I asked her if she grew up with a similar negative saying. She did. Her mother’s was, “Life’s a bitch, then you die.”

There was a pause as we both let those words hit the walls around us.

Then, we both laughed. Sitting there, we were both shocked and amazed at the nasty negativity of these parental mantras. How as parents, we would never have uttered anything like that to our kids. We sat there perplexed, trying to find some wisdom in it. We couldn’t. We laughed again.

A funny thing happened later, though. Walking through the woods, a new phrase bubbled up in my thought stream. This felt much more positive than my friend’s mothers mantra.

“Life’s rich, enjoy before you die.”

I wondered if I could find a new phrase for my negative childhood mantra. I worked at it, but nothing came. A few days went by and talking about it with my husband, a new mantra was born.

“Accept. don’t expect and you’ll always embrace life.”

I don’t know about you but both of these new mantras not only nurture me, they give me hope. I feel lighter accepting rather than expecting. And even if I’m not rich, I know that enjoying the riches of living my life each and every day on this amazing planet.

What were your family sayings? And how did they help or hinder you?

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