I had a strange dream one night. Many people from my childhood were present in this dream - people I haven't seen in over 20 or 30 years. One of the things I recall about the dream, is my telling them that they were not at all like they used to be. One of them was a cousin - he used to be my favorite cousin - he was so sweet and lovable. But now I did not recognize him - he was no longer sweet and lovable.
Another visitor in my dream was my grandmother (who died over twenty years ago). She also was very different than she used to be. My grandmother in this dream had become hard, unwilling to love, vindictive even. In the dream, we had an angry confrontation (in " real life", I never saw her get angry at anyone). When I accused her of being unloving and unkind, in her defense, she said that it hurt too much to be loving.
Who Am I Becoming?
Upon awakening this morning, this dream remained in my consciousness. What was its message? Was I being told that I was becoming hard, unloving, vindictive? I wanted to say "Of course not". After all, who wants to admit to those traits? Don't we all want to see ourselves in a positive light, even though there is also a side of us which is constantly putting ourselves down?
Upon reflection, I believe I "got the message". The question to ask ourselves is "Who are we becoming?" Are we living up to the child we were, or could have been? Loving, playful, wanting nothing more than to love and be loved. (I'm talking about very early childhood. Before we were tainted and "corrupted" by mind games, by competitiveness, jealousy, revenge, etc. etc.)
Some of us have good memories of our childhood, others have only bad. I used to think I had a terrible childhood, until I started talking with people about their childhood. Then I realized I actually had a very good childhood. Sure I was sent away to boarding school, but at least I was never beaten or molested. Sure my brother and sister picked on me, but none of us ever maimed or killed or raped the other.
When I realized that I actually had a pretty good childhood, I started to remember different things. Up to that point, I had chosen to remember just the "poor me" stories. Then I started to dig into my memory and remember happy events too.
Regardless of how we remember our childhood, we have a choice of how we'll remember our adulthood. Better yet, since we are creating our adulthood as we go, we can make it so that we will not be ashamed of anything we've said or done.
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In every situation, there is a loving choice and a vindictive or unloving one. Many people think that the loving choice means demeaning yourself, or making yourself into a doormat. On the contrary! Sometimes the loving choice is walking out of a destructive relationship.
Sometimes the loving choice is taking yourself to a detox center, or quitting your job, or working harder, or working less, or telling someone the truth. It's different for everyone, but each one of us knows deep down what is the right action in each situation.
What Is The Loving Choice?
You can always ask yourself when in a bind - "what is the loving choice here?" - remembering that you must make sure that the choice is loving toward yourself as well as others.
Jesus said "Love thy neighbor as thyself". What many people fail to notice is the "as thyself" part. Actually, that may be the greatest problem with "the world as we see it today". People are loving their neighbors "as themselves". And since they don't love themselves, and they treat themselves without love and respect, they treat their neighbor in the same vein. "Love begins at home". Cliché? Not at all.
Do You Like The Person You Are Becoming?
Who are you becoming? Do you like the person you are becoming? It matters not so much if "others" like the person you are becoming... What is important is: do you? Do you respect, admire, and have great hopes for this person you are becoming? Or have you given up on yourself, and let yourself become cold, arrogant, unloving, vindictive, spiteful...
Are you living a life of make-believe? Pretending to be nice to someone, and then cutting them down behind their back? Would you be proud of yourself if your thoughts and actions were to be displayed "on parade"?
I'm not suggesting we try to be perfect. Perfection is elusive, if not downright impossible. Plus, what is perfection anyway? A perfect day for me, is probably not so perfect for you. If beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, so does perfection.
If you are proud of your goals, of your intents, of your desires... that's perfection enough. Doesn't mean you'll always attain those goals, that you won't miss the mark (the original definition of sin), that you won't have "unpure" ('unloving') thoughts and desires. But in what direction are you heading? Is your goal peace and harmony? Is your desire love and understanding? That's what counts.
Becoming The Best "You"
If you truly want to become the "best you", then eventually you will get there. Yes you'll fall off the path many times, yes you'll feel pain, rejection, disappointment, self-criticism, and fear. Probably also judgment, resentment, and maybe even hatred. But those are all fleeting illusions. They are simply judgments on your actions or those of your fellow man (woman too).
Choose. Which path do you want to be on? Which reality would you prefer living in? Who would you rather be? It's a choice that we have to keep on making every day, and at times every moment of every day.
Contrary to what some might want to believe, once you become "enlightened" (or in some circles, born again), it doesn't mean that you have it made... that you no longer have work to do. What it does mean is that you've chosen a path. But, once the path is chosen, there are many choices - many opportunities or temptations - to take another path.
Every decision every day is a reaffirmation of who we want to be: loving or vindictive, happy or miserable, honest or pretentious. Sometimes we'll choose according to our highest vision of ourselves, at other times according to the lowest (or lower). That's OK. Things happen. Mistakes are made.
Non-Stop Opportunities to Choose Who You Are Becoming
The wonderful thing about life is that the next moment (and the next, and the next) bring yet again other opportunities to choose who we are becoming. What's it gonna be this time? and in two hours? and tomorrow? and next week?
One thing we can learn from Alcoholics Anonymous is that we have to take one day at a time, one decision at a time. This moment I choose not to take a drink (or take a cheap shot at someone, or another serving of chocolate cake,, or make a rude comment, or pout, or manipulate, or, or, or...)
This moment! I do not agonize about how hard it will be to keep making that choice tomorrow, or even in 15 minutes. I choose now! And when I get to the other crossroads, I'll make a choice then as well.
Keeping the Faith in Your Future Self
Keeping the vision in mind of who we are choosing to become will help us make our daily choices. Remember not to be hard on yourself when you "fail".
This life is not over until your last breath, and if you believe in life-after-death or reincarnation, or even heaven, then life is not even over with your last breath. So when you "fail" or "fall off from your chosen path", forgive yourself for being human (to err is human), and keep on trucking to the next crossroad.
One step at a time. One breath at a time! So it goes!
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About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com