The previous entry was all about the simplest of gestures influencing the whole world (and beyond). In any given moment our love, generosity and compassion can touch everything. This post (and the next two in the series) take the same idea and apply it to healing our past. If a smile can inhabit the infinity of space, then healing can inhabit the infinity of time.
There are three parts to this piece. All three parts centre around a different poem, all three of which were written by my father. Part 1 looks at how a recent poem reminded me of an old one and gave me the chance to heal my past a little (or maybe a lot). In Part 2 I see my survival strategies more clearly, as well as seeing that, when we suffer and withdraw, others suffer too. Part 3 is an intense reminder that our true nature is love and that its expression is inevitable. No matter how much we hurt, we are always able to love. Always.
It all began with a recent poem and a memory of childhood tears. The poem arrived a couple of weeks ago from my dad, and is reproduced in full in Part 3. For now, it’s enough to say that I cried all the way through (and it’s a long poem). There was beauty and pain in every line and I cried uncontrollably from start to finish. They were the kind of tears which come from a deep place – ones which don’t occur too often; are powerful enough to make us glad of their infrequency; yet also carry with them an unmistakeable feeling of unfiltered expression and catharsis.
The whole experience reminded me of the times I did precisely the same as a child – times when I read my dad’s poetry and cried. I have a particular memory of being at my grandparents’ house and going up to the bedroom to read a particular favourite of mine, knowing it would make me cry. It’s a simple verse, but one I could easily connect with at that young age:
I Want You
I want you
around me everywhere
at all times,
not like a deodorant
in late afternoon.
I always found that poem poignant: a desire for the constant presence of someone special; a sense of impermanence, too; and the feeling, perhaps, that the plea itself would remain unanswered. After my parents’ divorce, those same feelings were everything I felt at not having my dad around at home anymore. For a number of years afterwards (I was five when it happened) I really only saw my dad at weekends. The whole experience was, I’m certain, a deeply regrettable and painful situation for all of us: my mum, my dad, my brother and me. None of us could have been happy with the way things were. But everyone did the best they could.
I had idolised my dad. Even to the point that I remember looking at his blue eyes and wondering when my brown eyes would change colour. My brother didn’t see my dad the same way. I found out years later why that was. Later still, I would see those same reasons in his face when I came across childhood photos of us – me always smiling, and him deadpan, impassive, almost sullen; staring at the camera as if it were compounding a joylessness I had never registered in him when we were kids.
The weekends we spent with dad sufficed to maintain the joy of my childhood, but at a slowly decreasing level. I remained a happy child for a long time, but I guess the pain of separation eventually got to me. Sundays were always the worst. They signified the transition back to normal life after a weekend of play. School beckoned, and I faced a fresh round of absence and disconnection. I cried a lot when I was a kid. Alone in my bedroom. (Bob Dylan’s ‘Is Your Love In Vain?’ was another trigger.) Two weeks ago, when I read his latest poem for the first time, I cried deeply again. And as I write this, with Dylan’s voice emanating from the speaker and reaching back into my past, the tears are uncontrollable once more.
But there is healing in the intensity of this experience. The poem brought forth the same emotions I felt over four decades ago. It nullified the time in between, making it possible to connect directly with my younger self. Doing so from where I am now means I am able to provide the comfort and certainty that things will be okay, as well as the guidance I wrote about here.
It also allows me to see my history more clearly. In writing these three posts, I get to process everything in a way which was beyond me as a child. I have a more complete picture of what was happening, and just like everything else to do with this work, it’s the seeing which makes the difference. Being able to see clearly means I have a more informed, more mature, more whole view of the experience. One which naturally and inevitably strengthens the healing.
Furthermore, I have a new perspective on how I used to deal with things back then. I actively sought out the poems and the music which would make me cry. Maybe I did so in order to express more easily how I was feeling inside. Maybe that was my saving grace. As sad as I felt when I was doing it, maybe it allowed me to retain a broader smile for longer. A survival strategy to prolong the radiant spirit of childhood, and permit me to reach the point where I can heal myself across time.
Perhaps the ultimate healing lesson is this one: That young child was happy, loving and joyful. There was pain and sadness early on, which had an increasingly limiting effect on him, but he survived and he grew. He now has the life he missed back then. Love and togetherness, connection and tolerance, beauty, forgiveness and truth. The healing is in what we create together; the desires of a small child made real by a love that is everywhere, at all times.