As I lay there on my son Alex's little bed, I began to understand the powerful grip this festering anger had secretly held on my heart for so many years, to sense just how deeply it had poisoned my soul. I took a deep breath in and held it for a few moments, then let it out as slowly as I could.

I'd learned so many lessons over the past several months; time to learn one more, I supposed. Or was it the same lesson...just learning it in a new way?

Actually, darlin', don't you think you've already made some choices? That's what Rose had said, the very first time we met. Then, it had stopped me in my tracks; now, it brought an unexpected sense of peace. Of course I had. Choices, all along the way, at every step of the journey.

And suddenly, there it was.

There was no denying it.

It was as if I had just discovered that I'd been playing a game of hide-'n'-seek my whole life. One by one, I had made choices, then hidden them carefully behind other people and gone looking for the cause of all my troubles...never once suspecting (or admitting that I remembered) that I was myself the one who had hid them in the first place.

This game of hide-'n'-seek was called point-'n'-blame.

I blamed my mother that we'd never been close. Hey, she was the adult, how would I have known how to do any different? And here I was, 44 years old: had I made any effort to close that gap myself? I knew the answer to that one.

I had blamed David in the troubled years of our marriage: I blamed him for not getting a better education, I blamed him when business after business failed, and then I blamed him when he stopped trying.

I blamed Jake's first school in his kindergarten and first grade years, then blamed Greg Nielson's school a few years later. I blamed my own job, the company I worked for, and poor, unhappy Ed Harbison for everything that was wrong in my life.

And underneath it all, I blamed my parents for all the years of my struggling relationship with money. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.... My parents had never learned how to deal with money intelligently; I was just following in their footsteps. Hey, not my fault, I learned it from my parents, how was I supposed to know any different? Don't blame me, I'm just an apple seed.

What struck me was not only how unfair this had been to everyone else, but also how unfair it ended up being to me. Because if everything that went wrong in my life was someone else's doing, then where did that leave Annie Hunter in the equation? Poor Annie: nothing but a defenseless victim. What thin comfort that soulless rationalization provided.

I remember Rose's words on the day I'd first met Bart Thompson and Max Garrett:
There's cause, and there's effect. You need to decide which you want to be.


I TOOK ANOTHER DEEP BREATH, stood up and looked around Alex's room again. The afternoon sun had begun its descent, the slowly shifting rays pushing their lengthening shadows gradually across the room.

Alex was only seven, Jake ten, yet suddenly their adulthood felt strangely near.

My parents had grown up in poverty--at times, extreme poverty--and overcome daunting odds. Yes, they had made some mistakes while they were raising their young family; yet they had managed to provide a wonderful life for us. Not perfect, but they'd certainly done the very best they could with what they had to work with at the time.

Hadn't David and I done the same?

After 45 years of seemingly endless toil, Raul Duarte had bought his beloved wife her "starter home" and was still sending money back home to support the family he'd left behind in Chile. He had made sacrifices so that my sisters and I could have a better future. How could I stand in judgment?

Would Jake and Alex do the same? I shuddered to think it.

I thought of Nanny. It breaks my heart to see the same pattern, over and over, each new generation accepting so much less from life than they could.

What were we teaching our children; what would our legacy be?

It wasn't simply a matter of forgiving my parents, was it. In fact, my parents weren't really who I was angry at. Not at all. My parents had made their choices; I had made mine. That acrid, burning sensation of the soul my therapist had helped me to identify wasn't really about Laura or Raul, any more than it had really been about David.

It was about me, playing my life as a spectator instead of its author.

It was time to let go of the anger and resentment, time to embrace my own choices, without regret or equivocation, to stop keeping score, to accept my parents for the remarkable people they were.

I was so excited about the new direction David and I were taking in our careers; without question, it had given our marriage that new lease on life we had so desperately sought. Yet in that moment it became clear as glass to me that my new business was not in and of itself the solution. A commission check wasn't the answer to my unsatisfactory life--not even a very large commission check.

There's cause, and there's effect. You need to decide.

It was time for me to stop being at the effect of the circumstances of life, and to embrace being at the cause.

is a network marketer. The Journey is her first novel.
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