Living In The Realm Of What Is, Not What Isn’t.

When I was about eleven, my sister and I hatched a plan. My parents had divorced the year before, and my Dad lived three states away. We hadn’t seen him since before the divorce, and we missed him some kind of bad.

We heard that our grandparents were planning a trip to go see him. Our caper was simple, we would find a way to get to our grandparent’s house right before they left and we would stow away in their camper. They always had a camper and we were pretty sure they would take it on this particular trip. Our idea was that they wouldn’t find us until it was too late to drive back. You know, It would be a “Well, we’ve already gone this far”, kind of thing. It never quite worked out. We didn’t get to stow away in the camper.

A photo by Tim Arterbury. unsplash.com/photos/VkwRmha1_tI

Thinking back today, I’m so glad we failed. Eleven year old’s just don’t think very far ahead. When I think back on it and I think about all of the potential problems it would have caused, I just shudder. It would have likely cost everyone a lot of money and we would have ended up where we started. Also, it would have broken my mom’s heart and ruined my grandparent’s trip.  We were so focused on our Dad that we weren’t considering everyone else.

Recently I watched a documentary about Tony Robbins. It’s called “I’m Not Your Guru”. It chronicled one of Tony’s 4 day “Unleashing the Power Within” seminars. One of the people that Tony helped specifically, was a young woman who was there with her mom. This young woman had a fractured relationship with her Dad. I don’t remember what the issues were specifically, but I know he hadn’t been in her life for many years. One of the things that came to light was that she blamed her Dad for many of the difficulties that she had experienced. She felt abandoned. She traced most of the problems she faced in her life back to the fact that he wasn’t there.

Tony said something to her that stuck with me, and I’ve given it a lot of thought ever since. He pointed out that we have a tendency to fixate and obsess over what’s missing in our lives, and completely ignore what’s actually there. When it comes to our absentee fathers, we ascribe a value to them based on what we imagine would have been different, or better, had they actually been there. Everything from the rough neighborhood we had to live in growing up, to the imagined advantages that we never had because we didn’t have a man around to teach us man things.

When we obsess about the missing pieces in our lives, we hurt ourselves in many ways. I’ve outlined four that I had to deal with below.

  • When we focus on what’s missing, we ignore what we have. Spending all our time thinking about the Dad that left often blinds us to the Mom that stuck it out. When I think about the things my mom went through raising us, I am humbled. Against some pretty tremendous odds, she managed to keep us together. And it’s that more than anything else that gives us strength today.
  • When we focus on what’s missing, we develop a victim mentality. We look at our lives with a sense of powerlessness. Situations and circumstances are mostly beyond our control and we feel that we either have no right or no power to change things. This leads to the thinking that everything bad that happens to you is always someone else’s fault.
  • When we focus on what’s missing, we tend to become ungrateful. We tend to overlook the good that we have. We may unintentionally let all the negative overshadow the positive in our lives.  This includes all the people who never gave up on us.  The ones who stuck it out.
  • When we focus on what’s missing, we accept the limits of the wrong story. For many years, I thought that I couldn’t get ahead because my Dad left me without advantage. My friends and relatives who’s Dads were still there, helped them with things. Things like understanding money, basic knowledge of cars, work ethic, and knowing how to build and fix stuff. The first time my grand dad took me to the garage to work with him on my mom’s car, I had a revelation. I was not without help. I began to understand that I had a lot of the help that I thought I was missing. God just brought it to me by another route.

Tony Robbins made a strong statement to the young woman in the documentary. He said that if she was going to blame her Dad for the negative, she was also going to have to blame him for all the positive that came from it. She was going to have to blame him for the fact that she learned how to deal with problems. She was going to have to blame him for making her into a strong woman. She was going to have to give him credit for those things too.

Look at the person you are today. What difficulties or hardships in your past shaped you for the better? What do you possess today that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t endured your past? It’s time to focus on what is, and forget about what isn’t.

It’s time to re-frame the picture of our life, let go of the imaginary life in our head that never happened and give real thought to how we can move forward from where we are. Let today be the foundation for a future where we focus on possibilities. Not a foundation that’s haunted by the ghost of what wasn’t, but, at least in our minds, should have been.

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2 Responses to Living In The Realm Of What Is, Not What Isn’t.

  1. D says:

    Wise words!

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