Webster’s definition (directly copied from Webster’s dictionary).
Simple Definition of cheat : to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something
: to take something from (someone) by lying or breaking a rule
: to prevent (someone) from having something that he or she deserves or was expecting to get
Hear the word cheat and some very vivid images come to mind; an unfaithful spouse, a scam artist, a dieter eating a candy bar, a student who didn’t study but many of us would say we don’t cheat. We might even say we’ve never cheated but upon closer introspection I think most of us would find we cheat everyday.
Whether it’s driving a little over the speed limit, forgetting to signal when we turn, saying we did something like take out the garbage when we actually haven’t done it yet. Or what about cheating our children of precious connection? That’s one of my biggest gripes. It never fails, I always see parents talking on their phones or playing with a tablet and completely ignoring their children. When we give our focus to unimportant things we are denying our children of what they deserve, an engaged and interactive parent. See definition #3-prevent someone from having something he/she deserves. We cheat.
Human beings crave connection. We aren’t meant to live without emotional connection to other human beings. Close personal relationships help protect against depression. But close, meaningful connections don’t happen without time and effort. We spend the most time on the things, people, experiences we value. Like the bible says, “where your treasure is (what in your life you deem important-it doesn’t have to be money) so will your heart be.
If tomorrow you had to make a list in order of where you spend your time and place your focus what would it look like? I’m not advocating quitting a job. But don’t cheat yourself and those you love out of a deep connection by being distracted and focused on the temporary things life has to offer.
I believe we are all aware that we learn lessons as we go through life. Some are obvious like; look both ways before crossing the street or foul language is not appropriate. But what about all of the lessons we learn unknowingly through our interactions with the people around us? For me lesson #1 to unlearn is:
Compliments people give you are never really genuine and can not be trusted to be true.
Growing up I don’t remember a time when I received a compliment that someone in my circle of family or friends didn’t find someway to discount what was said. If someone told me I was pretty and I shared that, I didn’t hear; I think so too or they are right or how lovely. I heard; well you could look like a monkey for all I know but I’d still love you. What does a child hear? The compliments can’t be trusted. I could give many examples but the point is I was taught to close myself off from any positive comments. I learned people don’t give genuine heartfelt comments and when I receive nice words, I should immediately disregard them.
How has this affected me? I have closed myself off from letting people love me. I’ve filtered out all the nice comments and have only let the criticism come through. No wonder I am so self criticial and struggle with believing in myself.
So for 2016, the first lesson I am going to teach myself is this;
Compliments given from people are genuine and can be trusted to be true.
You can’t hide. I thought you could. I spent 30 years thinking I was doing a good job of hiding my unhappiness. Tonight at dinner I found out no one was fooled. My daughter told me she knew that I had been unhappy for years. She shared memories of finding me crying and lying on the floor. She has memories of me telling her it was selfish to want breakfast in bed on her birthday. She says she knew I was hurting. She just didn’t know why and as a kid, you aren’t there to save your mom. I know we all remember different things and I know she has some good memories. But I also don’t doubt her unhappy memories because she was right, I was extremely unhappy.
It made me really sad. I had to fight to hold the tears back. Crying in the middle of the cafe would not be a good idea. She grew frustrated with me because I had asked her to be honest and when she was, I got upset. I wasn’t upset with her honesty. I was upset with myself. I had spent all of those years working and putting so much energy into hiding my unhappiness when I should have spent all of that energy on getting out of my marriage and making a life for my girls and me separate from my their dad.
She pointed out, rightfully so, that many, many times I was superficial. I valued all the wrong things. I had let my husband’s values supersede my own values. How had that happened? In my effort to keep him happy, I abandoned what I knew to be true. And in doing so, I hurt my daughters. I only hope they can forgive me.
We all know that you do the best you can as a parent and some of us are lucky enough to make smaller mistakes than others. My daughters are wonderful people and I am so proud of them. They have their values in the right place. They remind me to love myself and that they love me. Learning tonight I wasted all those years trying to hide behind a mask has taught me just to be myself. Happy or sad, don’t hide it. Just be happy with who you are.