Sunday, July 31, 2011


They call it "the sandwich generation."  Adults parenting children and their own parents at the same time.  

The odd part of being a member of this generation is how squeezed you feel.  The kids have their own needs and demands, their own schedules, and who do they count on to provide those needs?  Yep, mom and / or dad.  And the parents of these amazing people start to be less and less able to meet their own needs, and rely more and more heavily on their children.  

If we've been fortunate enough to have had parents who were encouraging, supportive, positive, and loving, caring for them when they're older tends to be less of a drain on us... even though we're dealing with their mortality, our mortality, and the added financial and emotional stress that entails.  

But what if they weren't?  What if they were negative, critical, cruel, and abusive? Then it becomes even harder.  Often such parents, coming face to face with their own aging bodies, become even more negative and abusive (at least verbally) than they were when they made us cower as children, fearing their outbursts of either neediness or rage.  

Those are hard feelings to experience.  Yet in recovery, which is about bringing out all of those feelings, all those experiences, and allowing ourselves to respond to them appropriately and come to a place of forgiveness and freedom, often something totally unexpected happens.

Not only do we experience freedom from the past, we are able to have compassion in the present.  It's really strange... the perspective that getting unwrapped from the graveclothes others have put onto us, gives to us. The power that the critical parent held over us starts to fade, as does our fear of them.  We begin to see them as the helpless ones, the ones who need our help and concern.  We begin to see them as humans rather than demi-gods.  

It doesn't mean that we need to let them walk all over us or manipulate us into being their servants or their counselors.  It means that we can treat them as equals rather than superiors (or inferiors), to give them the courtesy and respect they never gave us.  

I will admit that seeing parents as helpless and dependent on me is so incongruous.  Part of me is tempted to retaliate.  Part of me is tempted to ignore, to abandon them to a fate of loneliness brought on only by themselves being so very bitter and unkind to their children.  But there came a point in my mind and only as a result of this healing process, at which they stopped being the people they were when they were my age and even younger, and became these vulnerable, pitiable human beings. Small.  Powerless.  

A sandwich isn't a sandwich without the middle part.  What's in the middle can play an important role in whether the whole thing is palatable or not. As I grow in relationship with God, and get more and more unwrapped from those hangers-on of past hurts and false beliefs, I become more and more empowered to (so to speak) improve the quality of the sandwich rather than leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth.

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