Sacred research

I go to church for reasons beyond having the opportunity to perform music and time to knit. I go to be reminded of what I already know but tend to forget when I’m not thinking about it.

Sometimes I’m glad to just sit in the presence of Spirit with a bunch of other people and feel connected. Most of the time the message touches me and gives me something to dwell on, while nodding my head and feeling warm in my heart, as I knit.

And then while not often, sometimes it pierces me–through all my layers. It stays with me, lodged underneath my shell, emanating vibrations like a splinter of truth.

The Sunday before last was like that. And it’s taken me a while to process it enough to write about.

Here’s my truth splinter:

“Be willing to look at the thing that scares you, for there lies your sacred power.” –David Ault

Oh. Right. Shining a light in all the dark places. Yes. I’ve been doing that.

OK, let’s write a book now

As part of my Shining a Bright Light in All the Dark Places project, I seem to be writing a book. A memoir. Even though the word makes me cringe a bit.

I started just writing down my memories, from the earliest I remember. And from before then–from stories my Mum told me.

And then I felt a bit stuck.

So I started writing down the strongest memories. The ones that have stuck with me vividly through the years.

One in particular then started going places and I realized it was turning itself into a story. It’s about my time in Barbados–those 4 years from age 10 to 14. They were some wild years and they shaped me in ways I couldn’t quote fathom at the time.

Researching my past

Happy hour at the Beach Club in Barbados
Happy Hour at The Beach Club with Christoper (yes, that palm tree does have an electrical outlet attached to it).

Once the premise of my book became clear, I realized there was a lot I didn’t remember. When did we live in each house, for instance? I lived in 5 houses in 4 years. And my memories are strongly tied to which house we lived in at the time. But the dates aren’t clear to me.

I dug out my box of memories from the back of my storage closet. It’s a funny-shaped closet in the bedroom under the roof line. Long and sloping. Not good for clothes. So we put in wire shelves last summer while the kids were visiting their Dad. I store all my photos, the kids’ baby clothes and my knitting and craft supplies in there now.

Behind the yarn and fiber arts stuff is my memory box. It’s an old cardboard box with a lid (made from another box that doesn’t quite fit) covered in shelf liner that I made as a teenager. It has old school papers, odd mementos, swimming medals and patches, letters, report cards, a few class projects and the condom wrappers from when I lost my virginity. (Why did I keep those?)

It contains everything I put away. The stuff I didn’t want to deal with but also didn’t want to forget.

And I got it out.

I’ve carried that box and its contents around for years–over seas and across a continent. But I don’t open it.

The things that scare me

I don’t know how other people feel about their childhood memories, but taking mine out and looking at them fills me with dread. Or at least a deep-seated unease. It gives me that squishy, squirming feeling in my stomach. Those are places I’ve learned not to look.

But perhaps when I looked before I was still too close. I wasn’t able to see the sacred power that lies underneath the discomfort. I was in a different place in my life.

Earlier last week when I first got the box out, the familiar stomach clenching started. It was painful to open it up and paw through it, stirring memories and dust. I spent the better part of the morning immersed in it, unfolding old letters, remembering forgotten friends who’d always ask me to write back. It was really uncomfortable. There was tear shedding as I held a postcard from my Nanny, written to me in English. What effort she must have put into that to reach out to me in the language I spoke.

I went to pick up the kids from school in something of a Barbados-induced daze.

The next day, I dug out my Mum’s photos. I don’t have many from when I was a kid. But she did. I’d already sorted them somewhat by year. But now I wanted to know more.

What I found as I began to unearth it all was a new fascination. Shining the light made me want to unveil more and more until I had all the memories back again. They aren’t all easy memories — many are full of loss and longing, of betrayal of trust and loss of innocence. But they’re mine. And I want to honor them by remembering. They are part of me, after all, and who I’ve always been.

What I find as the days go by and the pieces come together is that the discomfort lessens. The shadows of my memories are places I’ve long feared to go. But it’s there that I’m going. And I’m finally finding the sacred power within those scared places. It’s getting easier to look and see the truth of my experiences and myself.