Friday’s Focus—A Page Is Worth a Thousand Memories

Still deep in the process of cleaning up and boxing for our move, I came across a stack of journals I wrote many years ago while in my late teens, through college, and into the end of my first marriage. The notebooks were squirreled away in a corner of the garage interspersed with high school and college yearbooks. A cardboard box of memories now wrapped in spiderwebs and reeking of mold.

I knew I couldn’t keep them smelling the way they did but I couldn’t bring myself to just toss them either. So I blew off the dust, found myself a seat and flipped through them one last time before they were forever history. I was feeling an odd mixture of curiosity and trepidation—heck, I remember those years. Did I really want to go back there? But instead I found reading the entries again to be revelatory. It’s amazing how our memories gloss over seemingly innocuous details that feel as big as the sun when they first happen. And yes, there were some of those dreams in there that I haven’t achieved but it was okay because I can still say not achieved yet.

There were names and events that I barely remembered, if at all, but the key players were there still as sharply in focus as yesterday. It was fascinating to look back and see how my experiences and feelings shaped me into who I am today. But the most surprising reveal was seeing patters of thinking and beliefs from back then and (deep breath here), seeing and admitting I still have them today.

The patterns of thinking and believing wouldn’t have been so obvious had I not read these journals. Admittedly, it was a little disconcerting to discover how feelings of insecurity, shame, and fear had their seeds in those pages and how they’ve remained as unconscious patterns now. But I also saw patterns of strength, fight, resolve, and determination that also had its seeds back then, and which have also remained to this day, far outweighing the insecurities and fears thanks to experiences and time.

There were some hurtful events that came back in vivid detail, and as they did, I almost felt like a mother to myself, sending the younger me love and understanding back through time. It provided an unexpected opportunity for the healing of my younger self, which in turn, heals my current self.

There were good memories of sun, friends, going down the shore, and countdowns to last days of classrooms and some not so good memories. These were snapshots of daily life and growing up in the typical highs and lows of a Jersey girl moving from her adolescence through her first marriage.

I saw myself from the inside out because it was me but also from the outside in, reading about my feelings and experiences as if they happened to someone else. I didn’t expect this as I started to flip through the earliest book, but before I knew it, I caught myself searching for the girl I knew I was and connecting with her as the woman I grew up to be.

By the time I read my way through to the last journal, I was ready to let them go, but I wanted to do so with some sort of dignity rather then tossing them into the trash, so I let my inner artist come through. I filled the kitchen sink with water and bunch by bunch, tore the pages from the notebooks and soaked them in the water. I watched my handwriting disappear as the ink washed away.

After a few hours, the water now looked like a mini-lake with its blue water and the paper pulped back to its beginnings. I grabbed handfuls of the mush and squeezed them into small balls of paper—no hint or evidence of the words they once contained. As I worked the paper in my hands, I once again took on the role of Mother to the younger me and consciously connected the disconnects. I wasn’t sad about giving up the pages and notebooks now. As a mater of fact, I felt it was a gift to go through them again and cathartic to wash the pages away.

I’m glad I kept them all these years. I don’t think I ever intended to re-read them. Once the last page was filled, up it went on a shelf until I didn’t know when. But now, I do. I’m interested to see what will reveal itself when I read my current writings 30 years from now.

A written page is worth a thousand memories and staying open to what was can only lead to a better way of what will be.

#takingitdeeper

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Blogging From A to Z: Welcome!

W

Dear Renata,

The Universe here, dropping off a quick note. Yeah, THAT Universe, as in the big U. Just wanted to stop by and bring you a note to say WELCOME to your new life.

I know things have been difficult and challenging lately, but I’ve been sending some people and good books your way to help you keep your sanity and to brighten your day. I’ve also brought about some new situations that I see you’ve taken advantage of to showcase your writing and art. You’re welcome.

I’ve been noticing that you’re still having some trouble despite my help though, and so I thought it best to contact you directly and send you an official letter welcoming you to this next phase of your life. The neighborhoods are the same—job, health, home, family, friends, and I’m sure you’ve already noticed that some of them have been changing with new neighbors and others that have moved out. More changes are coming and you will be exploring those neighborhoods soon enough, but today I decided to use the “W” in Blogging A to Z to welcome you to the new neighborhood that deals with taking care of your mom.

As you are well aware, she’s been having some additional health issues lately, and I’m sorry dear, but I want to strongly suggest for you to stop fighting the change. She’s not as young as she used to be and definitely not the mother that is living in your memory. So, in a sense, you have an updated version of your mother—the latest model so to speak. She still dances to the beat of her own drummer but the station has changed and there’s a new song playing. You’re the only relative close by whom she can call so instead of fighting the truth and the inevitable and feeling like your drowning with these new responsibilities, give it up and do the backstroke instead. You’re a good swimmer and strong, and take it from me, drowning people struggle in their panic so much it does more harm then good.

I don’t believe in writing instruction manuals but there are a lot of people in the same boat as you and the world is a wonderful reference library. Since I would never leave you high and dry and alone in your new neighborhood, I want to remind you that you still have God, Karma, and some pretty fun guardian angels on your side ready to help you in a pinch.

That’s about it for now. I used to do Welcome Wagons a long time ago complete with a basket of muffins and coupons for local dry cleaning, but too many people have food allergies to the muffins and everyone is so conscious with the environment now that I tend to leave notes like this when creating situations and opportunities aren’t enough. Take care of yourself and take care of mom. She needs you and I need you and the world needs you to be another volume in its reference library for the next person moving into their new neighborhood.

Love always,

The Universe

Patterns

Patterns. Seeing patterns for what they are. Allowing the witness to step out of the shadow. Begging the sky to make it stop and allowing myself the one anguished cry, “why?????”

Today I sat by the woodpile and cried. I felt the clouds and sky closing in. I took a deep shuddering breath and let it go and as I slumped against the garage door.

And then a peaceful calm slowly came over me. The whispering in my ear was gentle yet insistent:

“She has other people who live closer that she can call if this was a real problem, a real emergency.”

“She could take a cab.”

“If it snows, we’ll just leave earlier or take a different road.”

“You can’t cure your husband’s cancer.”

And then even more insistent, “You don’t have to solve the problems. You can let it be and see how it rolls out. What would happen if you didn’t try to solve all this? What if you put down the superhero cape and just listened. No one elected you hero.” I winced.

My heartbeat applauded this sudden reveal of the subtlest of subtle patterns that I had on some level, at some time, created and now truly saw for perhaps the first time in my life. The witness kept whispering and the breeze suddenly blew a lover’s kiss upon my cheek, drying my tears.

I stood up, stretched, and looked up to the sky, suddenly feeling lighter with the realization that the answer doesn’t always have to come from me.

Just for today

They say that God only gives you what you can handle. I don’t know how true that is but with recent events, he must sure think I have some pretty big shoulders! I’m one of those people who will get done whatever needs to get done and then collapse afterward. Because of that, I was nicknamed “The Rock” by some friends a few years ago. These days, when someone calls me that, I say right back that even rocks get worn down over time.

While waiting with my elderly mother in the doctor’s office for her to be seen, I was struck by how frail and vulnerable she has become. When did this happen? There comes a time when the roles switch and the parent becomes the child and the child becomes the parent (aka caregiver). This change started for me a few years ago but is rapidly advancing to the point that there is a new problem/situation almost every time she calls. I try to be patient but when it’s the fourth and fifth and sixth time of repeating the same thing within a few minutes of each other, I find my voice rising in frustration and white-hot fear that this cannot be happening. Right here right now right here right now right here right now has become my version of counting to 10 as I shut my eyes against the conversation I don’t want to see, to hear, to have, but I must. Because I am the rock but like a river, my tears are wearing this rock down.

I always feared losing my self, my identity if I had children and I jokingly refer to my 80-year-old mother as my child. As I find myself in this not-asked for caregiver role, I realized that I have indeed lost my identity and my self as I knew me to be….but I am finding a new self and a new identity I never would have known if I wasn’t going through this.  To help speed up the process of roughing up this spiritual piece of coal to a diamond, I am also tending to my husband as he goes through chemotherapy. Off with one caregiver hat and on to another! So while I’m scared and I don’t know what I’m doing, I just repeat right here right now right here right now and am incorporating a write here write now write here write now to bring this diamond in the rough more out into the open and see where this will all bring me.