I have learned that worrying about the past or the future really does me no good. Worrying about anything really is a waste of time. All I can do is be as mindful as possible in the present moment to be able to see clearly.
At this present moment I’m in Michigan visiting my parents. Like many Baby Boomers, they have collected a lot of stuff over the years. Like many others of MY generation, I am helping them clear out some of that stuff. I had been worried that I would be left this job after they both died so was happy to fly here to help when the opportunity presented itself. This week has been fascinating as I’ve spent time with them and learned things about each of them and myself in the process.
My mom and dad hold on to things. Like many of their generation, they never know when something might come in handy. And so, they have a ‘room of requirement’ similar to that much-loved space at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series only slightly less magical.
Or maybe it is just as magical.
For as the week of what I’ve been fondly hashtagging on social media, ‘the Great Half Century Clear Out’ has unfolded, some magic has happened.
We’ve all been transported to earlier days, and earlier time in my parents’ 51 years of being together. We’ve found some old wedding presents of theirs, items bought over the years, medical supplies, camping equipment, stuff inherited from my grandparents, a nicely aged bottle of red wine, the list goes on and on…
But mostly we’ve found boxes of memories.
Both of my parents have been able to tell me stories I didn’t know. We found my mom’s first plane ticket, from 1965 when she flew from Michigan to New York for $40 to meet my dad who had just got out of the army. They stayed in New York on 44th St, just off 5th Avenue, at a hotel that still exists today (I googled it!). They had single rooms at $6.00 each (yes, they still have the receipt) and went to the New York World’s Fair.
Dad found a box of old trophies from when he and Mom raced cars. Most of the trophies ended up in the rubbish, but as soon as dad picked up a couple of them, you could just see he remembered the fun they’d had, the car he drove at that race, the adventures he’d had and he couldn’t wait to tell me.
As I unpacked one box I found photos of me as a child that I don’t remember seeing before. In another, old dolls and toys from my childhood. In yet another, I found all the cards that I had saved from when my now ex-husband and I were dating and he lived in England and I lived in Australia. I found cards and letters from friends and family members who wrote to me when I first left for Australia in 1993. I have a few letters from my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather, my only grandparents who were still alive in the 1990s. And I found letters from other old boyfriends too.
One letter in particular struck me hard as it was from someone I didn’t treat very well. I think of myself as being kind and generous in the main, but I wasn’t in this case. And the regret of how I ended things with him has lasted for more than twenty years. I don’t regret a lot in my life, but I do regret this. How do you get over a regret like that? How do you fix something that happened so long ago? Can it be fixed? Or do you just take it as a piece of unfinished business into your heart and vow to not treat anyone like it again? Use it as a life lesson and move on?
I feel like this week has been a crash course in examining who I was and who I am now. So much of my life is tied up in this place, in the people who live here, in the stuff that sits in my parents’ basement. For so many years, I’ve run away from it. I moved to the other side of the world. But here it all is; sitting here for me to acknowledge and accept when I was ready.
I wasn’t ready before., but I am ready now. I see clearly how everything in my life has been building to this. Like lego blocks, brick by brick, my life is built. For many years I kept my life moving forward, hell-bent on getting somewhere, being anywhere but here.
But lately I’ve been rediscovering and redefining my relationship with my parents. Not as a child, but as an adult who was their child. Who still holds memories in my head and in my heart. And now, in this present moment, I can just be with that. Know that I am here. Know that I am loved. Know that I don’t have to be running all the time. Know that if I am still and quiet, I can just be and see what reveals itself.
As I talked with an old friend last night she reminded me that we constantly rewrite and understand our past by seeing it through the lens of our current wisdom. I love that thought.
I can trust that the memories sit behind me like a foundation – they help form who I am today, tainted and changed as they may be through the lens of my current wisdom.
I can trust that the unfinished business of my life will sort itself out – it will help form who I am in the future and inform me as I continue to learn and grow.
But today is today. All I can do is appreciate the moment and accept it for what it is. And appreciate and accept who I am in this moment.
And that truly is magical.