I finally planted the pansies in the little beds by the front walk a few days before Christmas. Planting the pansies involved raking leaves out of the beds, and, as always, my thoughts turned to my dad as I raked. It’s a connection that I’ve taken for granted over the years. In fact, I didn’t even give it much thought until it prompted a blog post about my dad, the very first post on this blog.
I believe there are threads that connect us all and that these connections are never lost. We may think they’re gone because someone dies or leaves us in some other way, but we carry those people with us every day. They become and remain a part of who we are.
A while back, I came across a quote by Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time, A Circle of Quiet, and many other wonderful books):
The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.
This idea probably doesn’t acquire much significance until you have a few decades under your belt, but I think L’Engle’s idea dovetails perfectly with the idea of the threads connecting us with others. If there are threads that connect us to others, then surely there are threads that connect us to the selves we were at different ages.
A child runs down the street pulling an old Radio Flyer like the one you had when you were six. A favorite song from high school comes on the radio. You open a box of mementos and find tickets to a concert you attended when you were in college. You take a book off the shelf and a photo of an old girlfriend falls out. In those moments, it’s not just that your memory is stirred. For just a moment, you actually go back in time. You become that age, that version of you, again.
When I rake, I think of my dad, and a part of me travels back to the time when he was still alive. In those moments, I reconnect not only with my dad but also with the child in me—the little girl/young teen who was his daughter, who loved him and learned from him. It’s a sense/feeling, rather than a conscious thought, but it’s there.
Of course, not all of my younger self memories are positive. There were awkward and scary and painful times, too, but I’ve learned to focus instead on the fact that my younger self made it through those times—that I came out on the other side of them, that I lived to tell about them (and with any luck, learned a thing or two ).
The Stephen Sondheim musical Follies contains a song called “I’m Still Here,” in which the character sings about the ups and downs she’s been through, but focuses on the fact that, in spite of all that’s happened, she’s still here—still alive and kicking and putting one foot in front of the other. It’s become a sort of mantra for me: I’m still here. Out-of-left-field career changes? I’m still here. Crappy, painful marriage? I’m still here. Financial nightmare? Yeah, sure, but I’m still here.
The thread that connects all of the events and people of our lives is us. We are the common denominator. Just as we carry our departed loved ones with us, we carry us with us, too. We carry with us the little boy or girl who had big dreams. We carry with us the young person falling in love for the first time. We carry with us the person who cried for the loss of a loved one. The person we are today contains all of those people.
Imagine, if you will, these threads as wise parts of you that can guide you going forward. Let the dreaming child guide you along your path to a life that will feed your soul. Let the you who has known loss help you remember what that was like and extend compassion to those who are grieving now.
With every passing day, I see more and more evidence of how connected we are to everyone and everything, and those connections don’t apply only to the present. In fact, for me, a lot of the past year or so has been about unraveling the threads connecting me to my earlier/younger selves. In recent years, many of my threads became tangled, even broken, and mending those connections has provided healing for me on a deep level.
I like thinking that I’m connected to all the Vikis that went before and to all the people in my life, past and present. It’s like having a personal advisory council/kumbaya circle at my disposal 24/7. Now I just need to learn to keep the lines (threads) open.