As much as I’m always working on you, you should know, I am also working on myself, too. Recently, something happened that had me thinking it was a good time to put my own “Baby Lauren” trait on a timeout.
What, you wonder?
My kids have hit the age that they’re old enough to cook and leave dishes in the sink, change their wardrobe an impressive amount of times, and use beauty products in (and all over) the bathroom. And, all of a sudden, my house began reminding me of a squirrel house.
For the first time ever, I was feeling jealous of my siblings’ homes, who all seemed to have a better deal than me. You see, their homes are clean.
Suddenly, Baby Lauren started throwing an internal tantrum. As brats do, she began plotting how she was going to soothe herself. She even contemplated having her once-a-week cleaning lady come thrice a week. However, Baby Lauren also knows that no matter how much she pouts, there was no way her money-saving MacGyver of a husband would ever concede to it. So eventually and wisely, I decided to see my tantrum for what it truly was: a purgatory of sorts. One that was definitely time for me to come out of, and one that, undoubtedly, was in response to one of my mother’s traits.
Which trait you ask? My mom’s maniacally neat one.
Marsha and me
Now, I’ve always been “clean-ish” most of my life … mostly … sorta. OK, not really. I will fess that the drawers and closets in my house are, for a lack of better words, a bit of a wreck. And periodically, I joke that if my mother, Marsha, opened these drawers, she would cry!
You see, growing up, my mother was a total neat freak. Everything was immaculate. No shoes in the house. No using the brass sink. Bedrooms always organized and clean. Yes, I grew up in that kind of home.
In coaching, we believe that you inherit patterns, traits and behaviors from your parents and that they show up in different ways. So when looking at a specific trait, you either mirror your parents’ actions or your trait is a reaction to theirs, such as acting in the complete opposite way. And for as long as I can remember, I attributed my messy drawers and closets to a kind of rebellious reaction to my mom’s neatness.
What I didn’t realize, until I decided to take on my home, is that this rebellion had Baby Lauren stuck in purgatory.
Purgatory is when a person is spiritually stuck in an area of life because they are holding onto a particular belief, thought or action, or are blaming someone or something for a circumstance. I was stuck in my messiness and wanted to change it.
So I decided to give myself a coaching assignment because, like I said, I am always working on me. My coaching assignment could have easily been to clean and organize the various junk drawers and coat closets in my house, but I knew that wasn’t going to be enough. I wanted to end my purgatory. So I did a “purge,” on cleaning and my mom. A purge is when you write out all your real thoughts about a particular situation, or person, so you can decipher what’s really going on for you.
Once completed, I reviewed my purge and saw that I’ve got mommy issues and that my relationship between my mom and my messiness were connected.
I believed that she was so busy cleaning that she didn’t make the time to just hang out or share intimate moments with me. I justified my disorganizedness with the line, “I’m more interested in real intimacy than in tidiness.” Meaning, I chose connection over cleanliness. While my mother would rather clean than connect.
Now I want you to know that while my mom and I have a loving and honest relationship, I’ve stuck to this cleaning-versus-intimacy story for years. This, in turn, has allowed me to blame my mom for my messiness and actually avoid doing the work to organize my home.
Taking it on
I decided to take my mom out to lunch and talk to her about our relationship. I shared my purge with her and told her I was finally taking on my lack of organization and cleanliness trait. I admitted that I had long attributed my “messiness” to her “clean-freak-ness” and that it had allowed me to avoid taking responsibility for this area of my life.
I didn’t blame her. Instead, I made it all about me. I explained how I saw a connection between her extreme cleanliness and a lack of intimacy and that it was something I wanted to work on with her. And you know what? She agreed! She told me that she wanted more intimacy in her relationships and to be more connected to people.
In that moment, she decided to take on that area herself! Who would have guessed, right?
Since that lunch, my mother and I have gotten closer. We now see each other every other week for breakfast to connect, chat and play. And of course, I cleaned out all my drawers and closets, making it my mission to keep them organized. It felt great to take on this area of my life, not just because I grew up about cleaning and became accountable for my home and belongings. Now I know where everything is and can actually find things when I need them! And best of all, what I thought would be a simple upgrade—getting more organized—turned into a real point of growth for one of my most important relationships.
Now my mom and I are closer than we’ve been in years.
Time to clean out your junk drawer
Perhaps your house is flawless and organized and you’re relationship with your mom is perfect. Maybe you’re thinking, “This blog post doesn’t pertain to me.” But truthfully, no matter how much we think our relationship with our parents has “grown up,” we all have something we’re blaming them for. Here’s how to figure it out:
- First, take an inventory and write a “purge” about something you don’t like about yourself.
- Next, look at how your parents treated that particular thing, and find out what variation of that trait you inherited from them.
I was messy because my mom was a neat freak. Maybe you’re always late because your parents were also bad with time and never taught you about time management. Maybe your dad was cheap, so you are overly generous and pick up the check at dinner gatherings. I promise there is a connection to be made if you do enough sleuthing into your family tree.
- Once you pinpoint the trait and figure out its roots, have an honest conversation with your parent or parents and clear the air on what you’ve discovered. Admit to the areas in which you’ve been holding blame and commit to an evolution.
- Make promises. I promise to keep my house clean and organized and maintain regular dates with my mom. Your upgrade will also require continued attention and regular maintenance.
- Implement consequences in order to hold yourself accountable to your promises. For example, if I don’t organize my drawers and closets at least once a week, I lose TV privileges for two days the following week.
You’re always working on relationships, whether you’re conscious of it or not. What you put into them, you get out. As an aside, you can do this work even if your parents have passed on. Remember, it’s not about them, it’s about you—the thing you want to change and the life you want to live.
Loosening the grip on your inherited dynamics frees you to design your life exactly as you want it to be and grow into it with pride and integrity. You might find (as I certainly did) that fixing one relationship or area of your life has an impact on the other areas, as well. Try it and see!
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This post originally appeared on HandelGroup.com.
Photo credit: Eye for Ebony, Unsplash