I’ve been in deep conversation with snippets of myself, starting at a point when I was no older than thirteen. I was stuck in a painful moment in time – a Christmas memory that I thought I had long resolved.
It no longer felt in my distant past – I was there in today’s timeline, feeling the pain of it, and could not let it go. Some scars are deep and easily become raw again.
Reflecting on Time
As I started to write, I heard Paul Simon’s opening lyrics to “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” playing in my head:
“Time, time, time
See what’s become of me”
Towards the end of that song, Simon wrote:
“Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry”
I love the idea of exploring our lives as a tapestry – as a work of art. We can get stuck in the difficult bits and focus on them to the detriment of seeing the overall beauty, or we can embrace it all.
Another image that resonates with me comes from Lolita. Nabokov wrote:
“… I cannot help running my memory all over the keyboard of that … year.”
How beautiful is that?! On the keyboard of our lives, we can experience something beautiful or discordant, heartening or despairing. The choice is ours.
Armed with two powerful metaphors to apply to my internal conversation, I felt ready to try again to heal this old wound.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Before sharing this experience, I feel compelled to explain that I have always loved giving gifts. I experience great pleasure in thinking of what each recipient might enjoy, shopping for or creating that gift, and ultimately delivering it.
I remember exactly what I purchased that holiday with my limited means at that age, and for whom. I was very excited to have found some make-up for my mother that I thought she would like. Days before Christmas I asked her to guess her gift and she said, “Anything but make-up.”
The hurt washed over me. Days later, I watched as she opened her gift, saw the disappointment in her face, and heard the flatness of her response.
I had done slightly better with what I chose for my father and brother, but still seemed to have disappointed them.
And then I opened a gift from my mother – a purse. It was not something I liked but I appreciated the thought behind it and thanked her for that. It did not matter to me that I would never use it.
My mother’s reaction to not hearing the excitement she expected was to verbally attack me for not liking it. I remember her comment that “everyone likes it,” which was a common retort designed to justify her point of view and let me know how wrong I was.
I felt I had failed my parents twice within the same hour. No one liked what I gave them and it hurt me deeply that I made these bad decisions. Now I was attacked for not liking something to the degree to which it was expected. And that’s when the tears started to flow.
My father screamed about how spoiled I was for crying at not getting what I wanted – but I don’t remember wanting anything. My reaction was not about what I did or did not receive – it was about being a disappointment and doing so twice over. I simply was not good enough.
My father told the story of the Christmas I cried for years, repeating his version of events. Each time I told him the truth of those tears, and each time there was no understanding. He kept the wound raw.
I knew I had to release the pull of this experience and let it go from my thoughts. I found a way forward by focusing my awareness on the full tapestry. I chose to create a different melody on the keyboard of my memories.
That is to say, I chose to look at and celebrate the abundance of joyful interactions in my life.
The Pure Joy of Giving!
One of those many joys is in finding the perfect gift for people I care deeply about – something at which I failed all those years ago. Often that is something tangible – wrapped to give delight as it’s opened.
One of my favorites was finding an out-of-print cookbook for a dear friend who showed me her copy, loose pages held together with rubber bands.
I happily threw myself into the search which lasted months. It took me to antique shops, used bookstores, and finally to a book fair where one of the vendors suggested someone not at the fair who might have it – and she did.
Watching my friend unwrap a copy of her cookbook was, as they say, priceless!
The joy of that experience comes back full force in this moment. We are sitting at the table in her kitchen, the years between have disappeared. Time has become fluid in a delightful way and I cannot help but smile.
And then there are the intangible gifts, which fill my heart to overflowing! Giving my friendship, my time, my attention are the greatest gifts I can offer. And when I receive them, I feel truly blessed.
I am fortunate to have so many people in my life for whom I care deeply – and doubly fortunate to know they care about me. I appreciate them greatly, and I hope they know that.
This is the part of the tapestry in which I continue to spend time – the memories I continue to play on the keyboard of my life. Blissfully, painful memories slip away, giving precedence to those that are far more pleasurable.