“There is no greater burden to a child than the unlived life of the parent.” – Carl Jung.
So reading this quote for the first time was an a-ha moment for me! I had to stop what I was doing and reread it again. I never thought the idea of an ‘unlived life’ belonged in the same sentence as ‘parent.’ The two are completely separate. Being a parent doesn’t jive with living life or having an unlived life. It doesn’t matter anymore. You are a parent. End of story.
It seems even now with some shifting in our culture, a la women’s-empowerment-mass-movement books like Untamed, the idea of a parent (and in my case, a mother) living their life seems very progressive.
Looking back, my first introduction to this idea occurred when I was in my early 30’s. The lesson came by the wayside while I was busy raising my young daughter. During that time, I attended intense personal growth workshops to help me cope with and work my way through an excruciating divorce.
The first time I was encouraged to follow my personal path:
The facilitator of these workshops, a woman named Susan, guided us to work through layer upon layer of old painful emotions. After the end of these sessions, I met with her alone. Although at the time I was a single mom to a one-year-old and felt vulnerable and overwhelmed, I told her that I knew I desired to move away to a big city. I wanted to work in and raise my daughter in an urban environment.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it felt like it was! I would be moving away from the support and security that came from living near my extended family in upstate New York.
When I told Susan about my inner desire, she looked at me squarely and said, “Then that’s exactly what you must do! You need to follow that path, get out there, and soar!” I said, “What about my daughter and the connections she has here?” She said, “You are her mother, and you need to live your life. She will be fine, and she will benefit from it.”
More than a decade later, while living in my new city with my daughter, I stumbled upon that quote.
Let’s dive deeper into its meaning here:
What does an unlived life mean?
For me, it’s a place where you’ve somehow abandoned yourself and stepped away from your true life path. I like to think of it in terms of a soul blueprint, or the unfolding of a flower that you are meant to become. It’s almost as if you’re born with an unknown and yet-to-be-discovered life plan. Yet, somewhere along the way, you’ve stepped aside and not inhabited it.
Friends of C.J Yung of Oregon said, “(An unlived life) consists of those potential aspects of ourselves that have not adequately entered into our experience. Of course, no one can live out all of life’s possibilities, but there are key aspects of our being that must be brought into life or we cannot realize fulfillment.”
Motherhood can pull us in a different direction.
Motherhood can surely distract us along our path. It can happen in a flash! The moment comes along and you stop acknowledging yourself – your personal dreams, goals, and plans. Also, you choose not to address those inner feelings that need your attention. Instead, you place them on a shelf and think, “It’s too late. Now I don’t have time for this. Motherhood is taking center stage in my life.”
Realistically, there are days, weeks, and even years that pass by in a blur while raising a young child. You feeling haggard and exhausted. It seems like you’re barely getting through, only to look over at the mountain of laundry waiting for you.
Sometimes in quiet moments you may sense that you’re not fully living your life. Or, you might experience a nagging feeling inside telling you that time is passing you by and something is missing. You don’t feel that sense of excitement, purpose, or passion.
So, now what do you do?
Commit to connecting within yourself. Seek to move forward along your path.
An important step is to yearn for and commit to aligning with your deeper, wiser self.
There is a part of you that does know what you need to do. Call it your intuition, your spiritual connection, whatever it is for you. By taking time to be quiet and ask yourself, “What are the deepest callings in my heart? What is the one thing that makes me feel so alive and happy?” By asking yourself these questions you’re opening up to the answers that lie within.
Connecting with yourself takes on many forms. Dara Pozner of Mud Coaching recommends, “Get each day started optimally by spending a few moments noticing how your body is feeling, what emotions are present, what state of mind you are in, what your mood is like, how rested you feel, and then center yourself by practicing a grounding meditation or more simply by taking a few deep breaths.”
She also recommends getting in touch with your feelings (especially your triggers), tuning into the wisdom of your body, and just spending time in stillness.
Listen. Allow your higher voice to be heard. Practice this often. You check in with yourself. You can be flexible and patient, and allow the vision to evolve.
Questions to consider.
Begin to explore what you see for yourself in various areas. How can you step into living your life more fully?
- Are there parts of your life that you don’t want to address? Would you be willing to take a look? Are you connecting with your feelings? Are you acknowledging them?
- How are your relationships? Do you have the intimate connections that your heart yearns for? Do you have a fulfilling partnership? If you don’t – do you want one? How do relationships look with your family, friends, and colleagues?
- Take a closer look at the work you are doing. Does it feel like soul work? Is it aligned with your purpose? What other work might resonate with you more?
- What about hobbies and passions? Are you tending to those? Are you open to exploring them more?
Begin living your life now.
Even with a very hectic schedule, you can always find time to prioritize what matters most to you.
When you’re on the evening commute, you can listen to that podcast that interests you. You can commit to taking baby steps every day that move you into living the life you desire. Change doesn’t happen overnight. But, a commitment to exploring your deepest desires and taking small steps can bring you closer to the fully lived life you desire.
But living fully is not checking a box on a checklist. It’s being open to experiencing and living your life on a moment-to-moment basis.
It’s a willingness to connect with yourself and others in your unique way.
Even more, it’s a feeling of stretching wide open, trusting, and allowing life to unfold. It’s a willingness to co-conspire and to let joy come in and take the wheel.
There will be risks – personally, work-related, and more. It’s a deep dive to come alive and to claim the life awaiting you.
“Living life” also involves slowing down and savoring. As I write this, I think about Paris. Somehow, they seem to be living. Sitting outside cafes savoring the golden hour sun over cheese plates and a bottle of French wine. Removing yourself from the rat race. Living – instead of doing.
Live your life and free your child to live theirs.
There are many reasons why living your life frees your child.
First, you won’t feel the unhealthy need to live vicariously through them. Your dreams, goals, and plans are important to you. This releases your child from having to carry the burden of the unlived dream of the life you wished you had. Your inner state of fulfillment will be derived from within yourself and from the life you’re creating.
Also, by letting go of expectations, you can sit back and enjoy the path your child is taking. You can embrace the experience of raising a young adult.
Next, you can enjoy the feeling of knowing that you’re setting a positive example. You’re showing your child what a ‘lived life’ looks like. By embracing your path, you’re encouraging them to embrace theirs.
Lastly, there’s something to be said for generational healing. When you heal yourself, you heal everyone that came before you. Your child is energetically lifted from a burden they may have carried. You’re doing the life dance differently, and your child experiences that light, free energy now.
Also, you’ll be able to enjoy your kids more. What a beautiful, unique, incredible gift for everyone.