Memory Lane

Told that you will be spending two days with a former partner – lover, ex, intimate friend – from whom you parted on amicable terms but have not seen in 45 years, what would you expect to experience? Assuming, of course, that you are old enough to have so much time elapse between encounters. If you’re younger, compress the time appropriately, and include an awareness that you and the former partner knew you had different goals and would be traveling different paths. You parted amicably.

So here you are at the other end of a long separation, having pursued your divergent aims. You are going to meet not just your ex-partner, but that person’s current mate about whom you know absolutely nothing. Would you, like me, wonder if you’d find anything familiar in your former partner? Would you ask yourself questions about “the road not taken” and be curious to learn if you’d been correct to leave it? Would you – unlike me – obsess about your looks and how you’d aged and whether you’d still be found attractive?

Turns out, I had the interesting and enlightening experience of both appreciating the qualities that originally drew me to this particular former partner (FP), and recognizing how our differences had deepened into a rift which would inevitably have pulled us asunder. We were indeed lucky – or perceptive – enough to have realized that we should separate “before any harm was done.”

What I didn’t anticipate was the extent to which the visit brought back other memories from my earlier life – memories not necessarily connected to the relationship, including memories of events from my early childhood. It was as though, once broached, the closet where I’d shoved recollection of much of my early life behaved as any physical closet stuffed to overflowing – it spewed out random items when the door cracked open.

Going for a Walk

Going for a Walk

Visits to the zoo with my grandfather, during which he talked about life, and values, and the challenge of finding just the right word for his latest poem. He queried my week and my interests and what I was reading. I was vividly reminded of those Sunday conversations when FP gently probed how I live and who I am now, in much the same way as my grandfather had sought to know me.

Memories of intensely difficult times with my mother, who had serious psychiatric problems. It took me quite a few years to overcome the effects of her paranoia, explosive anger, and abuse. FP perceptively commented on his recollection that my mother also had an abusive mother, in the context of mentioning that he and his present wife were lucky to have grown up amid very positive family lives. I know now what it’s like to feel supported and encouraged by a set of caring supporters. And I also appreciate to what extent my adventurousness and my inability to fit neatly into the socially defined role FP offered, arise from the instability and emotionally volatile nature of my childhood. I’ve not had an easy life, but I’ve certainly had a varied, challenging and infinitely rewarding one.

Also tumbling out of the closet were memories of other relationships, rather a lot of them, mostly all pleasant. Such a range of different types of people I’ve come to know and value as friends! People who are very far removed from the European immigrant, advanced-degree-educated, middle class traditionalist pattern of my parents and of FP. Motor cycle riders, cowboys, ex-cons, and prisoners still serving time who participate in the Alternatives to Violence Program workshops I facilitate in the New Mexico prison system. Sixth generation descendants of Spanish families who migrated into the New Mexico territories from Mexico, and who still speak English only as a second language. Some of them are conversos (crypto-Jews) rediscovering their family origins. FP and his wife, conservative Jews, were deeply interested to learn about this link to an area they now plan to revisit.

I’ve known mechanics whose crossword puzzle skills rival my own. Believers and practitioners of a host of religions, and of no religion at all. Providing home health care throughout a large rural section of the state, I’ve been welcomed into ancient adobe homes with sod roofs, ranch headquarters in the midst of thousands of acres of range land, luxury second homes for people who spend half their year in Texas, and the truly mobile homes of a couple living permanently in their Winnebago.

Amidst the tumble of memories spilling forth, I find and grab onto a gem of an idea. I ended the relationship with FP because I knew I did not fit within what felt to me like a confining, prescribed role. I was not at home within a “family” structure. It turns out I’m not at home within any other established structure I’ve encountered in my life journey. I’ve fit myself into them (work, a variety of different cultural norms) to get along, but none have felt like ‘home’. I belong nowhere. Ergo, I belong everywhere!

Perhaps that’s why I’m planning to start a new career within weeks of turning seventy, and then, four or five years from now, I’d like to take off to live once more in a different country. Somewhere with a comfortable climate for older bones, where I can teach, and learn, and continue my life adventure. I’ve been dipping into memories from the past. I’ve defined a possible future to hold in intent. Meanwhile, it’s time to resume the most important aspect of Being – living in, and appreciating, each moment of the present.

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One Response to “Memory Lane”

  1. Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

    Leaf and Twig, a daily inspirational post that I enjoy, has now offered double benefits leading me to your site as well. Eerily, many of your thoughts and experiences would find photo copies in my life’s album. Perhaps our age category presents a bond, but I do sense other similarities.

    Your “tumbling memories” paragraph was an enlightening moment. In exact terms, you expressed how I have felt throughout my life and never been able to adequately define. Always feeling an inability to function amidst someone else’s “structured environment”, necessity has shaped me into a piece that can fit many puzzles, but not all have been enjoyable, rather simply tolerable to meet life’s needs.

    From early years going forward, for preservation and haven in fearful situations and relationships, I learned to design environments, “puzzles” of my own, where I felt safe and comfortable with all the pieces. I do not, as they say “have hundreds of friends on facebook” nor do I desire to, but by this age, my friends list is nicely varied and I’m more than content with its’ members. That’s not to say I’ve stopped making additions to the category.

    Many other remarks in your recent post were personal triggers as well, but when I write, I tend to ramble and so I will end my comment here.

    How nice to have discovered a similar soul. Your next post is much anticipated. Enjoy the rest of your day … and thank you.

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