AULD LANG SYNE


AULD LANG SYNEI’ve noticed over the past few days that lots of my friends on Facebook have been posting their “Year in Review” which consists of a series of photos that appeared on their FB wall, randomly selected to encapsulate their activities over the year.  In the past, Facebook would similarly offer up a compilation of your written posts to take a snapshot of what your year was like.  Looking at the images certainly evokes a sense of nostalgia, especially if they’re of close friends and you can remember the events where the photos were taken and partake in the reminiscence of the shared memories.  Frankly, I think about my year a little bit differently.  The photographs certainly remind me of the happy times with all the smiles and laughter that make me feel joyful but I also have to take a close look at the struggles of my year to gain an understanding of what I have learned and how I have grown.  It is imperative to acknowledge and respect the challenges that I have confronted in order to ensure that the learning is etched in my brain and that I can grow and improve in the coming year.

I am currently sitting in my melancholy room – my first floor guest room with its dim lighting and tranquility that always centers me and is my favorite place to write.  I came in here tonight because I was banished from the living room and surrounding rooms because my son has a bunch of friends over for a sleepover.  My husband escaped to our bedroom upstairs with the dogs and I decided I would move to the guest room to lay down and perhaps read for a while.  The moment I stepped into the room, however, I immediately felt nostalgic and thoughtful.  It was so distracting that it rendered me incapable of concentrating on reading.  I became overwhelmed with emotions and was compelled to try to capture the feelings in a meaningful way.  Curiously, this room has taken on an energy of its own for me.  It’s like sitting at the beach and smelling the salt and hearing the waves crash to the shore.  You can feel the sun baking on your skin and all the tension leaves your body nearly instantly.  It is almost impossible to feel tense at the ocean because of the calming and restorative powers of the sea.  The intense feelings that pour over me when I step into this room are inescapable.  I need not contemplate nor ruminate because the moment I open the door and move inside, I am flooded with warmth and calm and creativity takes over.  I don’t exactly know what it is about this room but I have my suspicions as to its magical qualities.

Tonight, when I sat down in here, I decided to text my friend to share some of what I was feeling.  I knew that a little texting was not going to cut it for me as I had a lot in my head and it was more than I could expect a friend to guide me through.  When I settled down with my thoughts, the first thing that came to mind for me was change.  Change is such a constant.  In my job, when we work with our corporate clients, we always teach employees to be prepared for change because it is the one thing that is, ironically, absolutely predictable.  Change is always going to happen.  As long as you are open and willing to engage with the change, you’ll ultimately be fine.  For me, change is certainly familiar.  I am constantly renewing.  Despite my inner desire for predictability and consistency, I have a very primal need for change.  I get bored.  I need to grow and learn.  I need to have new experiences while constantly battling my resistance to trying new things.  I want fresh faces, fresh ideas, yet I rely upon my old standards, the friends who know me for years and years and can help me reassemble my history when it all comes apart in my head.  At the end of every year, I rarely feel sad for the ending and typically feel energized by the renewal and the anticipation of what another new year can bring.  I am hopeful – eternally hopeful – of a better, more prosperous, more satisfying annum.

So, over the last few days when I was looking at everyone’s photos and smiling at some as I recalled the happy memories, I realized that photos could not encapsulate my year.  They only told one small part of the story.  My year was highlighted by things you can never capture in a photograph.  They were small moments – some quiet and some quite loud – that catalyzed me to change, to advance, to propel forward.  Some of the moments were tear-filled because I was sad or in pain.  Some were tear-filled because my heart was so full it hurt.  Some moments were solitary when I searched deep into my soul to find answers to questions that plagued me for a lifetime and still sat unanswered, patiently tapping its feet waiting for me to solve the riddle.  For me, my year was one that brought continued awareness of who I am, where I am going and what is most important in my life.  I suppose this blog is the best snapshot of my year but, of course, I only shared parts of it.  There were still so many moments in between the photos and in between the posts that pushed me from day to day, urging me to shift into the next form that my life needed me to take.

I fell in love this year.  I fell in love with my husband all over again.  I remembered that I have a partner who, through the darkest of days, stands beside me and provides me with unconditional love.  He makes me feel safe and secure even when there is no safety and no security when the wolf is threatening to huff and puff and blow our non-brick house down.  He envelopes me and ensures that I am loved.

I also fell in love with myself this year.  I found a part of me that either had gone missing or I had overlooked for a very long time.  I was able to do that arm-in-arm with some very intimate and special friends who supported me and showed me what I am capable of.  Not many words passed our lips but the power of friendship – really strong and significant friendship – propelled me to discover parts of me that I simply never felt safe enough to explore.

I revisited trust this year.  As the year comes to a close, this idea continues to wash through my mind.  A long, long time ago I stopped trusting.  Probably it happened when I was very little and realized that I could not count on anyone to take care of me.  I learned then to be tough and strong to make sure that I could survive.  I didn’t believe anyone would protect me and I learned how to build a shield, a strong armor to protect myself from anyone trying to break down the fort that I had built.  No one was going to penetrate my castle.  I built a deep moat with a small bridge that only a carefully chosen set of individuals could cross.  Rarely did I let anyone even approach the bridge but this year, not only did I let down the bridge more frequently, I actually gave a select few the passcode to lower it themselves.  No picture can describe the power of that.  No image can articulate the vulnerability I opened myself up to.  And nothing can express the joy and relief that comes from moving out from the shadows and showing myself in full technicolor.

My mother passed this year and, I suspect, with her went floods of pain.  Many locked doors began to swing open, asking to be entered and explored.  It has been painful and powerful and complicated and sad.  It has relocated me mentally and brought me to a new level of being, a new place of understanding.  I feel things I have not felt for many years because I was so locked away, working tirelessly to protect myself from old demons and monsters that had long ago lost their fright.  But, until my mother’s soul left the earth, I could not be freed from decades of pain and struggle.  I am sad to not have been loved in the way a child should be but I am grateful to have developed a sense of enlightenment that, perhaps, would never have been afforded me without the struggle, without my particular journey.  And, now, I have a clear lens to see what I need to see in order to do what I am meant to do in the world.  My mother had her moments and I loved her so much as a young child but she suffered a lifetime of mental illness. While I try to forgive her for all the pain she caused, I still strive to understand the depths of the damage and am continually amazed by the unexpected eruptions.

Nearly 10 months ago, my very astute friend asked me some questions that catapulted me into a search deep within myself that I knew would lead me down a very windy, very narrow, very treacherous road.  And, as this year comes to a close, I know for certain what I only suspected back then was true – this year’s journey was intentional, despite the pain, despite the problems, and its outcomes abundant.  As I sit in my melancholy room, allowing all of my senses to take over, I can only smile a little internal smile knowing that all of the wonderment and all of the magic of my year can be captured only in my mind.  I cannot post it on facebook nor can I even articulate it using my mad writing skills.  It is preserved inside me, providing me with a bounty to catapult me into the next year, hopeful that even more of my unique riches and rewards will be forthcoming.

And, for that, I am quietly and overwhelmingly grateful.

MELANCHOLY


“And, at such a time, for a few of us there will always be a tugging at the heart—knowing a precious moment had gone and we not there. We can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours forever—the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on belfry floor, a remembered voice, a loved face. They’ve gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass. ” – J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country

Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted every party to last forever. I was sad when the crowd started thinning or when my mother would send me off to bed while there was still plenty of fun to be had. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that happy times were in limited supply in my home and, when there were bright spots, I clung to them, hoping to prevent their end. Growing up with a glass-half-empty mother, I was conditioned to think about things in a bleak context. When talking about vacations, it was always, “it’ll be over before you know it.” When we discussed my wedding, she boiled it down to “it’s four hours and it will be over in a blink of an eye.” While there is some truth to what she said, it always left me clinging to whatever vestige of joy I could capture from every momentous event in my life.

Despite taking great pains to rid myself of much of this thinking, behavior runs deeper than our conscious minds can control. I have begun to notice in myself that I am anticipating the letdown of every event that I am looking forward to long before it is even close to arriving. It is as if I am gripping myself for some epic letdown that is destined to come rather than anticipating the joy and happy memories that will fill me for days, weeks, months and even years to come. I seem to have a sort of selective amnesia that prevents me from realizing that my life is rich with wonderful moments that quickly replace the ones that have passed. I’m regularly left with a hole that will be seemingly left unfilled forever. I suffer from a sort of melancholy that, while not totally disruptive to my life, forces me to consciously brace myself for the inevitable emotional letdown that comes after every high point in my life. And, while I am not thrilled about the melancholy that ultimately sets in with me, I know it is simply part of what makes me who I am. I like the way Herman Hesse looked at it. He said “suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” Oh how true this is. The melancholy affords me the opportunity to look at events in my life and, while I may find sadness in the aftermath of the joy, I am able to soak in the experiences and try to absorb all of the richness and texture that they provide to my life. I am reflective and introspective by nature and melancholy only deepens the process for me.

I can recall so many times in my life feeling that emptiness that quietly followed really extraordinary experiences. I often sit in the calm that resides in the wake of the storms of excitement that leave me emotionally spent and deeply speculative. I try to fortify myself with the memories, the photos, the inevitable peace that comes from knowing that my life is full. It is colored and contoured by the mix of events, personalities and love that make up my fabric. Unfortunately, it takes a lot out of me to travel that journey from melancholy to satiation. I battle with myself over the process, often faulting myself for not just simply being happy and knowing that, right around the corner, another wonderful experience will appear. On the other hand, I like what singer Shawn Colvin says: “the indefinable space between happy and sad is the most moving and compelling place for an artist to be. If there’s anything I consistently strive for, it’s a melancholy limbo.” So much power comes from the melancholy. As I continue my journey towards vulnerability and open myself up to feeling my feelings and feeling safe with my emotions, melancholy is one that I truly need to embrace and accept rather than force away. I cannot deny who I am or how I process the events of my life and, I suppose my melancholy is simply part of that. It is raw and honest and pure. It is the childlike part of me that never wants the party to end mixed with the adult understanding that tomorrow will bring another. It is the deep connection to the love that comes from those around me and the fear that, all at once, it will disappear and I will never again be whole. It is the connection and energy that surrounds me that I simply never want to let go of.

Today I am melancholy because I have had abundance beyond belief and tomorrow and the next day and next week and next month there will be even more and I will continue to enjoy it all and miss it when it’s gone. Perhaps that cycle will never end and I will learn to accept it is just part of the cycle of life for me. Like sunrise and sunset and the tides moving in and out. Perhaps I will learn to use it powerfully or I will simply go with the ebb and flow and see it as yet another complexity of me.