“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived lives of its parents.”
– C.G. Jung
The other day, on an early morning hike, I thought about the Carl Jung quote I’d just read. How had I never heard the term ‘the unlived lives’ before? In just a few words Jung summed up what I’d been trying to figure out and write about for most of my adult life. Jung was talking about, “that part of their lives which might have been lived had not certain threadbare excuses prevented the parents from ever doing so.”
Early in my life I took on the burden of making my mother happy. Of living life for both of us. Instead of pushing me out of the nest, my mother clipped my wings with the sharp edges of her fears, tried to make me cautious about the world, about love, about anything that led me astray and out of her nest. My greatest struggle in life was to figure out how to get my wings to grow strong enough to fly out of my mother’s nest to live life my way.
As I thought about this I passed a man on the trail yelling up to another man further up the mountainside. “That’s my father. He often blazes a trail of his own,” the man said. I told him about the quote I was thinking about and how my parents never encouraged me to blaze a trial of my own. The man looked at me with kind eyes. “One of the greatest gifts my father gave me was he took risks. Because it made me comfortable to take risks of my own.”
I’ve read one of the biggest regrets people have on their deathbed is that they didn’t take more risks in life. My parents died with many regrets – disappointed by the things they didn’t do. On my father’s deathbed his last words to me were, “Whatever you do knock out a good life.”
It seemed my life purpose had been to break the ancestral patterns of unlived lives by taking on everything and doing everything I could. Now the greatest gift I can give to myself is to unburden myself by knocking out the best life I can by actually doing less and living more.
A few more Carl Jung quotes:
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”