My sister and I took our dad, who now lives in a nursing home, to the cemetery today to visit and tend to our mother’s grave. We do this a couple times of year, and it’s always a welcome outing, as morbid as that sounds. We walk around and read the grave stones and Dad tells us how we are related to each of them, and some of his memories of them, as well. Today was a beautiful day for it, cool and sunny, and he always enjoys the journey as much as the destination.
Today’s trip started me thinking about our legacies. Not the material ones, but the spiritual, emotional, and physical ones. And, I started thinking about mine in particular. I won the parent lottery. I grew up in a Christ centered, love filled home. Yes, we had the usual bickering, and certainly had financial challenges, but I grew into a woman filled with faith largely because I learned that at my parent’s knees. From my dad, I learned how to get along with, love and accept others, and the power of a loving and giving heart. From my mom, I learned tenacity, perseverance, and how to be a God filled wife and mother. These, and so many other gifts, were given freely and embraced with pleasure.
But, what about the other legacies? The ones that weren’t so desirable? I’m not talking about the size of my nose or the freckles that plagued me throughout childhood and adolescence. I’m talking about more serious issues. Lifestyle legacies. Do you have any that you wish you hadn’t been saddled with?
My wonderful parents had issues. They both struggled with their weight, particularly my mom, throughout adulthood. Both developed Type II diabetes and heart disease, Mom had a stroke at age 70, and Dad has dealt with numerous TIA’s and seems to have some neurological hiccups that are hard to diagnose, but frustrating none the less. How much of their health issues were related to lifestyle and how much to genetics? I have no idea. But, I do know that neither of them lived particularly healthy lifestyles, eating like Southerners, and getting very little exercise.
I learned something last year as I trained for the NYC marathon that has taken 50 years to sink in. I can overcome this legacy of poor health. One of the things non-runners say to me ALL the time is, “If you ever see me running, it’s because something is chasing me.” Well, something is chasing me. It’s obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and poor health. I can’t change my genetic code, but I can change the way I live.
It finally dawned on me last year that what it takes to accomplish the seemingly impossible is simply the belief that I can. I never really thought I would finish a marathon, much less NYC. But, I did. The training was hard (go back and read some of my whinier posts), and it certainly didn’t happen in a day. But, it made me believe in myself in a way I never have before. I used to believe that I would always carry around an extra 20 pounds or so. If I lost it, it would just come back. And, guess what? Every time I lost it, it came right back. Hmmm…… maybe it had more to do with my lack of belief, than it did a “genetic predisposition.”
I now know that I can do it. My mother didn’t run 26 cumulative miles in her entire 80 years of life. Last year, I crossed the finish line of the NYC marathon. I know she was cheering me on from heaven. She always wanted us to find the best in ourselves, she just didn’t always know how to model that for us.
Do you have a lifestyle legacy to overcome? An alcoholic or abusive parent? One who was a spendthrift and didn’t teach you how to manage money? You are your own person. You don’t have to live the legacies that you don’t want to. Life is about choice, and each day brings a new set of choices. Choose to begin an exercise program, then each day, choose to do it. Some days will be really hard. I’ve never struggled with alcohol issues, so I can only imagine the strength that it takes to have to choose daily not to drink. And, yet, many are able to do it. Choosing to overcome your legacy may be the key to completely changing your life.
I choose every day to be happy, to be content with my life, to live the best life I’m able. That’s not easy to do every day. Some days, life stinks. Choosing happiness is a daily chore, one I do before my feet ever hit the floor in the morning.
If you have an “overcoming my legacy” story, share it with me. I’d love to hear it. Or, if you have the desire to change your life, but need someone to pray with you, I’d love to hear from you, also. Share it in the comments, or message me privately if you would prefer.