We all want to progress in life.
We want to improve, have more, do better. And it’s taken for granted that we want the same for our children, especially if we come from humble beginnings. One day recently, I measured my progress using yogurt.
Take that perfectly curated breakfast above. It’s full of protein, fresh berries, and organic, naturally. It murmurs vitality and micronutrients and my body is a temple. It also says I am well off. I can afford the ingredients and the time to compose this hymn to healthy eating.
Lacking time or inclination for Instagrammable bowls of perfection, I buy quality yogurt with fruit and live bio cultures. My daughter watched me scrape the lid clean; maybe half a teaspoon’s worth. Any parent of older children grows immune to the slightly pitying looks and sighs of their much cooler offspring, but I decided to play.
“At least I didn’t lick it,” I said.
“Ew. Why would you do that?”
“To get the last bit, obviously. Don’t act as if you’ve never done it.”
She rolled her eyes and left the kitchen. “I’ve never done that. Gross.”
The Yogurt Lid of Truth
I grew up in a large family where resources were scarce and you made the most of everything. Wasting anything that could be used was sacrilege. Hard work ensured my two children never had to cut the mould off stale bread or go to bed hungry. We are comfortable. But here I am, still rinsing the last drop out of laundry liquid bottles and scraping foil lids.
We are prisoners of our past.
We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what in the morning was true will by evening become a lie.
Learning to live comfortably is a challenge you never expected when you grew up wishing that you had more. You can find yourself penny-pinching to the point of misery even when you no longer need to. Or you can find yourself overstocking and hoarding just in case you find yourself destitute again.
It’s a struggle to change ingrained habits. But sometimes little things are the marker of bigger changes under the surface. Now that marker is a yogurt lid with perfectly good yogurt clinging to it, thrown in the trash without regret.
At some point, you have to start overwriting all that “no you can’t” from the past with “yes, you can have what you want.” Since there’s always an element of shame involved in being poor, saying yes to yourself is hard at first (I shouldn’t be doing this) then anxiety provoking (what if it all goes wrong?)
But ultimately it frees you from those old scripts. Saying yes empowers, not because it’s self-indulgent but because it’s self-affirming. It acknowledges how far you’ve come and how hard you worked to arrive. Yes to yourself is a vote of confidence.
Enough is a Feast
There was never enough in my childhood, but things are better now. I deserve to relax and allow myself the benefits that my children take for granted because I have enough now and I will not be left wanting. With that change of mindset comes a shift of focus from fear to gratitude, a much better way to live.
So make those baby steps that take you away from outdated patterns, and don’t look back.
It’s time to move on.
(first published 17.5.19 in Live Your Life On Purpose on Medium)