Passing On Patterns

I was having a rough couple of months. I think that it’s related to the changes I know are coming up for me and the preparation that has to happen for them to occur. I don’t particularly like going through periods like this, but I do learn a lot from them. I think sometimes they happen to remind me to stay still, step back, and listen.

About a week ago I was laying on the bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking. I was just thinking about how we live our lives and the patterns we create by the choices that we make every day and then I started to think about how those patterns don’t just eventually weave into the fabric of our own life experience but actually start to lay the groundwork for the people who are connected to us—especially those that admire us.

As I was thinking this, I heard one of the voices- the one I refer to as mentor and think of as a guide—he said very clearly:

“If you knew that the patterns you were creating in your own life would eventually be re-experienced by anyone who loves you, would you keep creating them?”

“That’s a really hard thing to consider,” I told him “but I know what you mean and I know I have a lot of things to re-configure.”

The message is hard for me to hear because I grew up believing a lot in the idea of self-sacrifice. I felt that if you loved someone or something you should be willing to give up a lot for it. The problem with the belief when taken to the extreme that I have taken it to at times, is that it becomes very close to suicide. It might not be literal suicide but eventually if you give up enough pieces of your life you no longer have your life—you have a shell that looks like a life but is empty inside. Sometimes you might think, it’s okay I can handle having a shell because all of that work I did giving up pieces of my life meant that I could give all the pieces to someone or thing else so that they could have it better than me. That’s what I used to think at least. I thought it was okay for me to give up things that made me happy if it made someone else happy. I didn’t mind destroying my dreams so someone else could have theirs—it seemed noble to me at one point.

But then I learned that that wasn’t how things worked.

The pattern we live—and not the actual things we give out—are what those who are closest to us and love us the most inherent from us. If I work myself to death thinking that I will have more to give to someone I love I am overlooking the pattern of working yourself to death that I am actually teaching the people around me. If I am constantly giving up the things I want so that I can make someone else happy I am overlooking the pattern that I am creating that pressures the people around me to also give up what they want for the sake of some “other” person.

The pattern is much more powerful than the things produced by it. We pass that pattern on to the people around us without either of us being aware of it and even though they can choose to reject it, doing so isn’t easy.

I realize that not everyone uses “others” as a reason for doing things; but I still think the idea can be used to look at what our priorities are and what we really want them to be:

If you think about someone that you love and want the best for and then imagine that they will be bound to follow the same patterns that you created—would you keep creating that pattern?

Would you want that person who is following behind you to work 50 or more hours a week at a job they didn’t care about? Or to stay in a relationship they weren’t happy with? Or to give up on their dreams or passions? Or to not take care of themselves or look for help when they needed it?

This is just a generic list of things that a lot of us do because we learned it. Many people were taught to follow a pattern that sought stability through a traditional work and home life or that valued hard-work to such an extent that they believed they should give up things like self-care and rest to be hard-working enough to matter. Many people have been taught to stay in incompatible relationships because you can and should make them work even if it isn’t what’s best for one or both of you, many people have been taught to give up on their dreams because they are “just dreams” and not real, and many people have been taught to suppress their emotional needs and do everything on their own because to do less than that is immaturity. Often we don’t think about these patterns that we create with the choices that we have made, we usually inherited them from the people we cared about and admired most and because we care for and admire the people that we learned them from it feels like betrayal to stop weaving them.

The problem is that if these patterns don’t make you happy or bring your fulfillment then they are detrimental to your life. This problem is compounded when you realize that it’s not just your life. Just like you learned and inherited the pattern from someone you loved and admired there is someone who loves and admires you who is watching and learning your pattern without either of your realizing it. That person is likely to re-create the pattern in their own life at some point.

It isn’t hopeless though. We have the power to change patterns and if we change the pattern, we teach the people who are following us that it’s okay for them to change the patterns too. Changing the pattern is a new pattern, one that allows for deviation in thought and value—it makes it so that the people who were watching can see that choosing a pattern that works better for them isn’t betrayal. We are allowed to change patterns. We are allowed to live for our dreams and focus on wholeness and healing and learn how to give and receive love completely. We are allowed to do all these things and choosing to do them and follow the ideals we believe in creates a pattern for those around us to also follow their dreams and beliefs.

We change ourselves and each other with how we choose to live and what we allow to be the motivating forces in our lives-- and here the beauty of it: those choices don’t have to be perfect.

We can make mistakes and fall into old patterns that we don’t want to pass on and then see those patterns and create a pattern of forgiveness and compassion as we realize we are humans. Then we can choose to try again and create a pattern of resilience. What our life looks like on the outside does not matter nearly as much as the pattern of energy we are weaving on the inside—but as a general rule of how things typically work—what we create on the inside usually ends up showing up on the outside anyway. So if we start to create patterns based on motivations like love, acceptance, forgiveness, hope, dreams, and choice then all those beautiful things are likely to reshape the way our lives look on the outside as well.

This is something that has been on my mind lately. It’s something that I feel I am being held responsible for at this moment—not that I need to go and undo everything in my life as if it were wrong—it’s not and that would be a destructive pattern—but I’ve skewed some of my motivations a little and it’s time to remember what the underlying patterns initially were and reset myself to line up with the patterns that I want to live and share with others instead of the ones that seep in because they are around me.

It isn’t a big event, but I’m seeing where I need to re-align with the patterns I want to live in and pass on, because I know that it’s these little adjustments on the inside repeated over and over into new patterns that create the template for a different kind of life and I want to create that life and live it fully and pass the template that encourages growth, change, love, hope, healing, and fulfillment to those around me. So—one small step at a time—I’m going to make those little adjustments and when I fall back into an old pattern, I’m going to show myself love and kindness and forgive myself and then I’m going to get up and try again. Eventually I know I’ll find my way—and if I don’t, I’ll at least be happy to know that I am doing my best and creating a pattern I am happy with.

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