“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.”
By Susan Kavanaugh, www.kavcomcc.com
Photo Credit: Victor Bowleg
Friends, I’m a youngster; yet, hitting the milestone of 60 this year created an urgent need to explore whether I was the living the life I wanted to live. The quest is still underway, but part of this journey required me to look into the past.
Most of the quotes you’ll ever read will strongly emphasize, “Don’t look back.” “You can’t go home.” “If you are looking backward, you will never move forward.” Mind you, I appreciate these, but must pose the question “Why do I always have to move/look forward?” And, as an aside, do I ever just get to BE?
There are precious, jewel-like components of my past that screamed for attention this year − places, people, and things I believed would affect my ability to be at peace with my life until they were examined.
While I was working with a homeless family shelter earlier this year, I immersed myself in the study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Each beautiful child I encountered at this shelter was facing situations similar to what I had faced at times in childhood.
In examining my life, I discovered I had lived in 27 different homes by the time I was 14. I even created a spreadsheet including all the data. When it was time to move to a new home, I was told by each caretaker, “Everything you can fit in this box is what you may take when we move.” The majority of the homeless children’s boxes at the shelter were large, black plastic trash bags instead. I was lucky in one way.
The similarities with these children did not end there. They had the same questions I’d had when I was young: Who will take care of me? Why do I have to leave my friends? In whose home will I live next? Will I be accepted into a new school and neighborhood?
During my deep dive it was important to take a weeklong trip “back to my future” in the Midwest where many of my past homes existed and do a visual tour. I was able to see seven different homes on one day alone. The twists and turns on neighborhood streets provided a challenge to see if I could remember the way to navigate, all before I ever drove a car. And, I’ll be darned if it wasn’t something that was as easy as pie. My memories, joyful and painful, rushed to the surface in every neighborhood.
Lately, I’ve been considering my angst about Hurricane Dorian’s devastation to the Bahamas (where I spent years living), and I realize that when I went to the Midwest I was able to get in touch with a lot of important memories but those homes I saw were no longer mine….only places in the past. I may never even go to any of them again. Even my dear friends who still lived there are people of the past. And, I can’t go backwards, never should even try, just forward….and even more importantly being mindful of the current moment I’m in each day.
With the beautiful memories of the Bahamas, I currently see physical destruction and suffering, but my memoriesare not destroyed. In the Bahamas, I watched a man land on the moon, bought my first vinyl album (the Beatles “Let it Be”), learned about racial prejudice, attended church camp on the beach during which we had a crab race, became certified to SCUBA dive, became certified as a life guard, studied successfully in a British Commonwealth’s school system, spearfished while sharks swam with me, dove for conch and created fresh conch salad, and sailed. Oh, how I sailed. Each and every step in time there is deeply etched in my mind. But, it is a time no longer.
After talking with my Dad awhile last night, I felt much more centered, or at least brought back to present day. Dad, who cared for me while I lived in the Bahamas, is not destroyed by what has happened. Concerned, but not broken up.
So I’m examining this little journey I’ve been on since turning 60. I’ve walked into the past. The difficult memories are there, but I’ve mostly only allowed the sweet memories to come to me. This has been a healing retrospective. I feel incredibly mortal but am looking at my past life as more of a blessing now. I am also much more mindful of the present moment. I understand life and relationships so much more. They are ephemeral. Only momentary. This very aspect drives me toward an inner peace that I have never known.
I am not looking back in either anger or fear, but I am looking around at what is. What IS is made even more beautiful. Love what is NOW. Live in the NOW.