“Suffering makes an instrument of each of us, so that standing naked, holes and all, the unseen vitalities can be heard through our simplified lives.” – Mark Nepo
The other day I shook out the blanket that I keep outside for lying on the grass in summer and my son immediately starting looking for the little farmhouse that we usually play with on it. I am fascinated by how quickly my kids make associations. Blanket = Little People farm. A particular cup = hot cocoa. Boots = puddles. Baths = lotion.
But that observation makes me realize how much I do it as well. Fall comes and I think of hot cider. I turn on Grey’s Anatomy and want a glass of wine. When I write I sit in one chair and when I work I sit in another.
It seems to be a way to winnow down our choices so that we don’t have to make as many decisions. But every once in a while a pattern crops up that reminds me of where I stuck. The other day my daughter was carpooling with friends and they asked if there was a particular car she didn’t like. She said BMW’s. And they asked why and she said it was because her mom didn’t like them.
I had to laugh when my carpooling friend told me this story. My daughter and I had been talking about cars and I’d offhandedly said that I didn’t like them because it seemed like the drivers bought them for image. Which is a very unfair broad generalization that I never thought would be repeated. The fact is, my ex-husband bought one to bolster his image and so I created the association. I’ve been over that relationship for some time so I shouldn’t punish BMW drivers forever.
Meditating on this, so many associations came up for me. Many of them are ones that make me smile – places that I walk that remind me of my beloved dog and phrases when I hear them that bring back my dad.
And one that I wasn’t expecting. I miscarried a baby four years ago. When I heard the news, I went to hike a beautiful trail that overlooks Puget Sound. This trail had been my go-to for any time I needed to think. The wind seems to whip whatever is inside me out into the open and the view puts it into perspective.
As I was thinking about associations, I realized that I’ve never been back to that trail since the day I heard the news about my miscarriage. Obviously I went on to have a beautiful son and so I filed the miscarriage away as old news. It isn’t something that I mourn or think of as painful. It just was. But every time I think of hiking that trail, I think “nah” without ever digging deep for the reason.
Life keeps teaching me I can carry around wounds or scars. If I choose wounds, they drain a lot more energy as they try to heal without ever been unpacked. But if I do the work to clean them out and then heal into scars, they just become part of the patchwork quilt that is me.
All of this introspection is a great reminder to me that I can pass things on based on my loves or my losses. And given how easily they clearly stick for my kids, I think it’s time to heal those wounds before any other misguided association gets repeated!