Posts tagged ‘memory’

April 3, 2013

I am not what I once thought was mine

I like this passage from Susannah Conway’s book This I Know: Notes on Unravelling the Heart:

We could all spend a lifetime unravelling the knots of our childhood, but at some point you realize the knots are no longer yours. They belong to your parents, and their parents before them. The legacy is long and complicated, the damage passed on through generations, until one day someone finally stops and says: This story does not belong to me. 

So many of us blame our troubles and our limitations on our childhoods — on how we were raised; on how we were perceived or treated as children; on the messages we received or didn’t receive in our formative years; on unmet expectations, emotional disappointments, missing pieces and unfulfilled hopes.

But do these stories really apply to the people we are today — to the experiences we have had in our adult years? Many of us have grown beyond the bounds of these old narratives, yet we continue to cling to them, to let them drag us backwards in our vulnerable moments.

What if we were to let them all go? To say to ourselves, “This is a story, yes, but it is not my story. It does not speak about the person I am today. I am more than that. I have travelled beyond the reaches of that tale.” Would our associated troubles lessen? Would our perceived limitations fade away?

Writes Conway:

The past is just the soil we grew up in, a blueprint we can redraft if we look at it from another perspective. What if we retell our stories, and in the retelling the new tale becomes the truth?

A truth in which we are not a victim, not small, not forsaken. A truth in which there is space inside us for love, compassion, forgiveness and empathy — for ourselves and for the people in our lives.

What if, indeed.

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March 24, 2013

Love the shadow to love the light

A bit of wisdom from my bag of Yogi Tea:

Love what is ahead by loving what has come before.

To me, this quote suggests that a key to living with contentment — both now and in the future — is the ability to acknowledge and accept all that has happened to you in the past — both the good moments and the bad ones.  “Love what has come before,” even if what has come before is nasty or painful or seems impossible to love.

If your past is anything like mine, it’s no rose garden.  Granted, there have been wonderful moments — plenty of them — but I’ve also experienced difficult and tumultuous times, stormy times filled with hurt and loss, times that have tripped me up, beaten me down and left a few scars to prove it.

Yet if I can learn to love those dark moments as much as I do the light — if I can make peace with them instead of trying to erase them from memory; if I can resolve past hurts and injustices inside myself and then let them go; if I can acknowledge and accept every bit of my past as a vital and worthy part of the person I am now — then I can enter my future with a free and open heart.  I can walk forward unburdened, alive to what is happening around me.  And I can welcome what will come with grace and compassion.

I’m willing to give it a try.  You?

December 4, 2012

Love the ones you’ve got, while you’ve got them

I like this quote from Canadian poet Lorna Crozier’s memoir, Small Beneath the Sky, because it captures the essence of the ties that bind a family — that hodgepodge of collective memory that only we, our parents and our siblings can access — as well as the very fragility of those ties.  One day, the people who helped colour the memories of your upbringing will no longer be present to share those memories with you — to laugh and cry with you over events gone by; to remind you of moments or details you had forgotten; to understand, implicitly, completely and without question, the myriad currents flowing beneath it all, holding it all together.

Near the end of her book, Crozier writes about the decline and death of her mother, Peggy, with whom she was close.  In the moments before Peggy enters surgery, she refers to her daughter, then fifty, as “still my little girl, my skinny little girl who I couldn’t get to eat.”  For Crozier, those words trigger an instant flash of memory — and a sudden sense of impending loss:

People would stop [Mom] on the street and ask why I was so big-eyed and thin.  What was she feeding me?  The truth was I’d eat almost nothing but bacon.  Outside the porch on a wooden chair she’d leave pieces for me to snatch as I flew by like some wild child, not wanting to come in from playing.  Who else could tell me that?  Who but my mother held those small pieces of my childhood?  Where would they go when she was gone?