Sunday, 8 August 2010

On Reflection.....


A little while ago 'Pohanginapete' responded to a comment I left on his blog.

'Often I've thought,' he wrote, 'that the turning point in a person's life must come when curiosity no longer outweighs reflection; when we begin living in our own history we begin the process of no longer creating it.'

Oh, cor blimey, gadzooks, what a wake-up call!

He was not to know that I had spent the previous five weeks in a welter of self-pity, recrimination, reflection....wallowing, in short. Living in the past, trying to see the past in a different light, wishing I had done or not done this or that - and then this or that would not have happened, or would have happened differently.

Oh yes, the perils of recollection.

How do you downsize, ridding your life of clutter, without the attendance of a life-time of associations? Everything I touch in this house triggers memories. Three and a half years since my husband's death and I finally take his unworn shoes to the Oxfam shop.
The practical de-cluttering is hard enough; but then there is the emotional.

Finally, I can be ruthless with personal papers and letters, but I have to read them all, just to make sure that I haven't missed anything important, any memories my sons might want to record.
The reading brings laughs and smiles and terrible shocks; for life was not always as I thought it to be. Sad things, once read cannot be unread, just as regrettable words, words spoken in anger and frustration cannot be unsaid.
With the best will in the world, we are isolated individuals, and there is an inevitable point when apology is no longer possible, and history cannot be revised in a more favourable light.

I can make copious contributions to the Oxfam shop. I can shred papers. But how much interior mental clutter must I retain?

In this situation it is relatively easy to use distraction as a means of avoidance.
I'm quite well versed in the processes of bereavement, I can acknowledge its stages in myself. I hope I can be of some help to others. I work for 'Cruse Bereavement Care'. I can occupy myself, stay busy, think of others.
Distraction has its uses.
Usually, in the past, my thoughts wriggled through a cacophony; family noise, work noise, trying-to-shop-in-lunchtime noise.
Now they bubble up from silence.

This, for me, is the turning point in life. The silence.

I realise I wrote about this when I first started blogging 'here'.
It remains a challenge, greater now than ever before.

I work on creating new, meaningful history - as opposed to distraction.
I ask my younger son, now that he has his own house, to come and remove the twenty four keyboards he still has in this attic (I do not exaggerate, he does something called circuit bending). He asks why, and I say I might want to move. He is somewhat shocked.
I tell my older son I'm coming to visit him. He lives in Kazakhstan. He promises me a business class ticket.

I cannot help but live in my own history. I would never be able, nor would I wish to discard it, but, hopefully I can build on it.

18 comments:

marigold jam said...

Sounds as if you have it sussed now - we must all try and live in our own history and how it has formed us but at the same time move forward and build on what we have. I doubt if any of us wouldn't wish to change this or that in our past but then of course we wouldn't be who we are today and as I read on somebody's blog recently "Who you are is enough" I liked that and copied it out to remind myself! Good luck on your journey.

Jane

Jane said...

It's so tempting, isn't it, to spend time thinking about the road not taken and how different life might be. No-one wants to lose their history but sometimes we tweak it to suit ourselves and when the reality is brought home to us by someone else's memories or something we find or read, it can be quite a wakeup call. Someone has written at the start of a novel(? Anita Bruckner): A thing once known cannot be un- known, only forgotten. We sometimes have to give ourselves permission to forget and move forward. Perhaps now is the time for you to let go and make that move.
Hope the garden stuff went well last week, and thanks for your email - I haven't forgotten your offer and hope to get to see you soon.

Zhoen said...

Reflecting and murmuring. Funny, they don't sound like traps, but oh, aren't they ever.

Perhaps a few good songs to chase the murmurs, and laughter to gently accept the regrets as ohsohuman.

A visit to Kazakhstan! Huzzah!

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold Jam and Jane: thank you both for your kind comments. I fully agree with what you both say, except that no, Marigold J, I have not got it sussed and doubt I ever will have!
I enjoy what you say about tweaking history, Jane. Somehow I so often end up jubilant in my own sagas, only to come crashing when reality hits!
The thing I was struggling with this morning was the idea of the turning point, which I can now identify as learning to live with a much greater degree of silence than I have experienced before.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: Thank you.
Have you been to Kazakhstan? I know we share Saudi experience.

Molly said...

Glad to see you back! In a way, it's almost comforting to know that others have regrets too, to know we are not so alone with our misgivings. Maybe all of us, even those who seem to have "perfect" and charmed lives, would do things differently if we had the chance of a do-over? There is so much I would do differently/better. But all we have is the moment we're in and maybe we did the best we could with each of those moments and should put them behind us, since no amount of fretting can change the past. We can, though,accept that it is the past and move on. Does that make any sense?

leslee said...

Sounds like the message to shake things up came when you needed it most, and just when you were ready. Enjoy some new adventures - life is so short.

Zhoen said...

No, never been. I just think it's good to go somewhere new once in a while.

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: yes, of course it makes sense, and we all do it. In general I try not to do the 'if only...' thing because it is essentially meaningless. It creeps in with tiredness though, don't you think?

Leslee; isn't it great when just the right thing happens at just the right time? And talk about new adventures - I've just got the big old freezer out from under the stairs, and installed a new one! There's a challenge for you!

Zhoen: Kazakhstan is certainly different. It sounds the most beautiful country, a great deal more scenic than Saudi. I'll take lots of photos for you.

den said...

Pohanginapete observation Is stringily accurate. You sort of know it is happening but don't have the energy for life to be any other. A fallow time before sowing seeds of things to come.
One foot in-front of the other, But of course journeys sometimes retrace steps before taking you forward.
Perhaps the bigness of all that is, is the reason.
The seeds you are sowing for your "new meaningful history" sound exciting. Happy and creative weaving of past and future.

den said...

Just had a thought. Do you ever listen to Something Understood on Sunday mornings? It is on early and you can go in and listen again. The different slants on life, I sometimes find very refreshing.

pohanginapete said...

Sorry I'm late here — still suffering a bad dose of the flu (probably swine, which I trust not too many people will think appropriate) doesn't leave much energy for the Internet.

Anyway, I'm delighted you've extended the thought into such an incisive post, and even more pleased to hear you have such a great attitude towards your low few weeks. Feeling down seems inevitable for all of us but the actual (not the perceived) saints; recognising that "mental clutter" doesn't have to be of overriding importance requires a wisdom I wish more of us had. I'm glad you have it.

Relatively Retiring said...

Den: thank you for your thoughts and encouragement. I think the idea of the 'fallow time' is appropriate. Plants do it, and so should we.
'Something Understood' is always interesting, and BBCiPlayer is great if you're not awake in time for the broadcast.

P.Pete: thank you yet again for inspirational thoughts.
I keep working on the clutter, real and perceived. But I really have to get those keyboards out of the attic!

Frances said...

Relatively Retiring: Are the keyboards taking up room in the attic that you want for your own stuff? If so, get rid of them pronto. Confront your child: if he is in a situation to change things, make him change them. If he is not, support his eccentricity.

Or, does the fact that they are up there, cluttering, worry at you, although you have nothing that you want to replace them with? Forget it: leave them there. Symbolically, replacing something your child values with an empty space is not a positive action.

My husband died 20 years ago. I'm sufficiently inefficient that some of his belongings and clothing have lingered until today, and this has turned out to be an excellent thing.
The little grandboys love wearing their grandad's hats, eg. Grieving, regret, is long over. These objects, evidence of his existence, are now a cause for rejoicing. Their grandad is far more alive to them, through these objects, than if they were relying on the memories of adults.
I refused to take my husband from our home: it would have been a wiping of history.

Frances said...

Heavens: I had no intention of sounding so bossy. Please understand that I am just offering an opinion. One opinion among many that you no doubt will receive. I trust that you will, of course, go with what feels right and best for you.

Relatively Retiring said...

Frances: good to see you back - I've been concerned for you.
What an interesting comment, which really made me think. Not in the least bossy!
I want the keyboards out of the attic so that I can decorate it and add value to the house in case I want to move. Very, very practical!
Yesterday my son totally dazzled me, as even adult offspring can do. I totally support his eccentricity (but still want the attic cleared!)

Isabelle said...

Laurie Lee said in his essay on autobiography, "There is no pure truth, only the moody accounts of witnesses", which is very true. And which means that the things that you regret didn't necessarily happen in the same way in other people's eyes. I mean, even if they wrote something about it, it wasn't necessarily a lasting grievance.

I'm wittering, I know.

I think that 24 keyboards is too many and you should get them out of the attic!

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: thank you. I never know what will prompt me to write another blog, or even if I will ever do so again. You've prompted me today - so I'll just get on with it. You were not wittering, believe me!