Thursday, April 8, 2010

Old vs New

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leave your arms too full to embrace the present."

Jan Glidewell

Sweetie has one particular shirt that falls into "you'd better not" category. As in you'd better not even consider throwing it away. Once upon a time it was the color and texture of stone-washed jeans. Now it is more white than blue, threadbare in places, and spotted with food stains that Oxy clean can't penetrate. Because of its age, the fabric has softened to a thin but deliciously comfortable cotton. Every time I take it out of the washing machine I think it is going to be in pieces, a sleeve here, the collar there, yet, like the Energizer Bunny or a Timex watch, it has a life that won't end.

The last time I ironed it (for unknown reasons, ironing is a past time I seem to enjoy) I made the mistake of suggesting to Sweetie that he start looking for another shirt to take its place. The shocked expression on my love's face told me I was seriously close to crossing an unseen line, that perhaps our honeymoon was about to be over. You'd have thought I was talking about his first born child not a shirt that has obviously seen better days.

What looks to me like something that would make a nice dust cloth, is something close to clothing nirvana to my mate. I look at it and see a ragged shirt with little life left in it. He looks at it and sees what? A security blanket? A connection to the life he led before entering the witness protection program? I must confess, that try as I might, I just don't see what the attraction is. It's a shirt for God's sake, not the Mona Lisa, I mutter under my breath as the iron hisses steam to the sleeve's jagged edge.

While I don't see what Sweetie sees in this shirt, I do know what it's like to hold on to things way past the point where the white knuckle grip does much good. I've noticed this is a re-curring theme that the Universe has been showering me with lately.

My Dad and I have developed a bedtime ritual includes putting drops in his eyes, rubbing his elbows with Lubriderm and watching Oprah while we wait for the 10 o'clock news. Of late, I watch and Dad listens as he rests his eyes! Last week Rosie O'Donnell was on. I hadn't seen her since the blow up on the View so I was curious what she had to say. None of it was of great importance. Mostly typical Rosie stuff. However, I have repeated one thing I heard over and over in my head. Regarding her mother's death when Rosie was just a child, someone asked her when she was going to stop using that as the focus of her life. That's my paraphrase. In essence she was being challenged to acknowledge that yes her mom had died and she'd had a crappy childhood after that but she'd also had many more positive things happen in her life (i.e. her show, her children, he philanthropy) and it would be good to focus on them. She was a lot more than just her mother's death.

I'm sure words of that same ilk have been said to me. I've probably even said them to myself, but they really rang true for me that night. I sat by my father's bed, listening to his shallow breathing, and wondered what events in my life continue to define who I am and where I'm going. What would it mean for me to let them go? To stop brooding about the fact that I didn't get loved the way I needed it. Or that my Dad has a knack for accenting the negative instead of the positive. Or the fact that I made some mistakes that caused me great pain at the time. Or I live with a great big FEAR necklace around my neck that sometimes paralyzes me. All those things are true, but are they still MY truth?

Hmmm? If I say yes, I get to hang on to them and have an excuse not to move forward. If I say no, then I'm going to have to let them go, as if releasing a bunch of helium balloons and watch them float up and away from my life. Then what? Try something new? Yikes! Let me grab that fear balloon back!

I just finished reading a memoir (Silent Echos) by one of the ladies in my writing group. I'd read bits and pieces of the book in our group so I knew the story was going to be one of hardship. Indeed it was. There was lots of what we call dysfunction these days, but what people experienced as reality during the Depression years. What was cool about the story was seeing how the author came to a fork in her l life's path and made the decision to take the high road, to put a stop to the past and embrace a new and better future. It took real guts and I was so proud of her as I read the last page and closed the book. I thought about her challenges, and mine, different yet similar at the same time. I thought about the hard times I've come through and wonder why I still feel so much like a scared little girl when in fact I'm a grown up woman, on the verge of "cronedom"! I'm old enough for young girls to ask me life questions and expect deep answers. What would I say to my granddaughter that I don't say to my inner child?

Over at Terri's blog today she wrote about being a woman who can cry for her wounds and smile at her growth. Dani piggy backed onto that theme and wrote that in the fairy tale of her life she has learned to rescue herself. Pam wrote of having the courage to sing one's own song. I feel like I'm being asked to check my fears and negative memories at the door and begin to embrace the strong woman I can be. I wonder what that will feel like?

One of the messages I got from Silent Echos is that each of us must move at our own pace. We cannot grow or change at someone else's pace. We must follow the rhythm of our heart. Only then can we let go of what doesn't work and reach for the brass ring. Or new denim shirt as the case may be.

Merry ME


Fire Byrd said...

As a therapist I can tell you YOU can move on, but only when YOU are ready to own the past emotionally. To acknowledge what has gone on before and to be in a place where you can forgve the past. We all have a history, our choice is to be a product or a victim of it. And although we can make one choice, the past sometimes catches up with us, in the way of old insecurities and doubts. Our job as adults is to check out whether the old rules still work today. Or could we make new ones to go with who we are today.
Thankfully all this keeps me in work!

terri st. cloud said...

fantastic post, mary!!! i think we all need to keep asking ourselves this kinda stuff all the way thru....
great reminder! thank you!

Pamela Jones said...

You know, Mary, I call these things my Willy Wonka the end of the movie, WW says to Charlie, "Do you know what happened to the man who suddenly had everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after."

The letting go is all about trusting that when you are hanging over the edge of that cliff and release your grip that you will fly instead of fall.

I don't think this is a once-and-done kind of decision, either. It's more like a promise to always trust yourself enough to release and move on. Kind of like falling in love and then committing to love -- one is for the moment, and one is for the rubber meeting the road.

You are so lucky that it's only ONE shirt! But don't get me started...
When my eldest son's security blanket was more like a security tatter, I started washing an identical(?) one repeatedly, in every load of laundry I ran, until it became respectably soft. Maybe you need to start wearing out a special shirt for a future birthday. Thus speaks the woman with five pairs of jeans who wears the same pair all the time with only minor breaks to wash them. :)