It’s been too long since I’ve written, even though I probably did more writing than ever in 2017. I just didn’t post it here. And while most writers are sitting down to write inspiring New Year’s Day posts today (Happy New Year 2018 by the way!), I just had two messages come from beyond that I wanted to share.
If you’ve not lost your parents yet, or someone you love dearly, there is a pretty good chance that you will someday. And losing people is hard. You miss them, and you wish with all your might that you could see or talk to them again. For me, I pray for signs or messages from my parents, or I pray for them to show up in my dreams. And every once in a blue moon, there they are in my dreams. Or I find a message.
The year 2017 will go down in history (my history) as a very pivotal year for me, and not just because that demon became president of our country. In the last third of 2017, my life exploded, my soul ruptured, and I’ve spent the better part of the last four months wandering around picking up the pieces of my life and trying to put them back together. And just like a building block game, some days I feel like I’m getting close to having it all put back in place, and it tumbles apart again. And I know that when all those pieces are put back together, they won’t look the same as they did before. I won’t look the same as I did before. I won’t be the same person I was before. And that’s a good thing, if I can just remember that.
I sometimes have to visualize things to truly understand and appreciate them, and I envision myself as a porcelain doll, and on the outside I’m your basic bone white china. But as I started to pick up all the pieces, I realized that on the inside of the porcelain, the part people could not see, were these extremely complex and intricate patterns and designs and matrices; each piece slightly different and not matching the other pieces. Some patterns and designs I recognized, for I had created them myself; others I had never seen before. It was like finding ancient hieroglyphics on the inside of a long lost cave. I didn’t know they were a part of me.
The past four months I have been doing a lot of work to understand me, understand my past, understand how I became the person I did, with all of my strengths and talents and all of my flaws and imperfections. And of course no history can be told without a look back at our parents and our ancestors.
I’ll save the biographies, but my Dad was a life-long alcoholic, and ultimately the disease won and took him down at age 64 (10 years ago this year). My mother was a life-long co-dependent, and became an alcoholic herself. She passed away just last year at the age of 68, and in the end… it all killed her; her alcoholism, her co-dependency, the accumulation of a life of tragedies and heartbreak, broken-heart syndrome, loneliness, and cancer. Loads of cancer.
One of the things I am learning about alcoholic/dysfunctional families is the three unspoken rules that they live by: “Don’t Talk. Don’t Trust. Don’t Feel.” I certainly do not have the don’t talk problem, but both of my parents did. And I longed to hear them talk, to tell me their stories, to hear their pain. To hear them tell me of their pain so I could bear witness and try to understand what had happened to them and who they had really wanted to be, and who the had ultimately become. To learn the lessons that I so desperately needed to learn.
But neither of my parents talked. My Dad operated in silence even more than my mother, but she was described as “stoic” on her deathbed by a surgeon.
They left nothing of real material value behind, both dying penniless. But I desperately dug through their belongings when my siblings and I had to do the clean outs. I was looking for journals, letters, diaries…….anything. Anything that would bear evidence of their stories, their hopes and dreams, their pain and ultimately their truths. I found nothing. Not a thing.
Until just a few weeks ago.
My mom had a “memory box” that she used to store some of her most precious klediments. Her garter from her wedding, her favorite photos, a small piece of jewelry from her mother, a cross from her father, and….. a stack of letters from my father that he wrote to her when they were dating, and when she first left home, and left my Dad, to go to college. I remembered seeing these right after she died, but I didn’t feel right reading them. It seemed too personal at the time, too sacred. So on this particular night, I was searching for a photo I thought was in the box, a photo I needed to help me process my own co-dependency in the long-term relationship that had blown up a few months prior. I rediscovered the letters. And I read them. And I started to see the story unfold – to see my Dad’s story and my Mom’s story. I started to see how the design, the complex pattern, became etched onto the porcelain of my being.
And I also found confirmation of something I always suspected – that my Dad was truly a lost and tormented soul, that he had a longing for life, a pull that tugged at the core of his being and made him feel as if he did not fit in among this world. In one of the letters, he wrote down this poem for my Mom. At first I thought “wow did he author this?”, but thanks to the power of Google, I quickly found the author. I stopped in my tracks after reading it, and sobbed. I too, felt this way. I always thought that I truly was an extension of my Dad – that I was just like him in more ways than were visible. (I even wrote about it way back when, over at another blog.)
The next message came just yesterday, on the last day of 2017. I was working on a photo archiving project, and found a card that my sister had given me, and in it were a few little clippings/notes from my Mom. My mother was famous for her little notes and newspaper clippings and quotes she would send us or save for us and hand over when she saw us. Usually we would roll our eyes, set them aside, and maybe never read them before tossing them. I don’t know when my sister gave me this card, but it had to be in the last year or so, and inside I found a fortune taped to a piece of a paper, with a note from my Mom that said “your ‘karma’ interpretation of this?”:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.