Spring has arrived and I have been digging in the dirt outside and in. In addition to planting my favorite French lettuces, there’s been the sorting through boxes of my Grandmother’s photos, the re discovery of my old high school yearbooks, and the recent trips to both my elementary school and childhood home.
Between the memories and the arugula, things are coming up.
You know the things, the ones you thought you had dealt with? Things placed (perhaps not so lovingly) in their secure little boxes buried deep in your subconscious. Psychic “forever boxes” of memories good and bad.
Some sense of familiarity, a place remembered, time looping in and around itself has unhinged me, and boxes are popping open.
The sense of having escaped a situation, “dodged that bullet” gives way to something denser. Unfinished business. In the shower, sudden anger surges through me. Past hurts rise like wraiths: the way someone treated me, wronged me, said something rude or diminishing. The times I just “took it” stunned by their cruelty, not believing that they were saying these mean things TO MY FACE.
Do you know what I am talking about?
So there I am, in the middle of a perfectly lovely shower and suddenly I am mumbling angrily, pissed off and on a road I would rather not be on.
Sometimes you can change course, reverse and come back to the intersection. “Choose a more positive thought!”
And some days (like today) you find yourself on the road marked ALL THESE EMOTIONS! Long ago hurts, insults and injuries, all waiting to be attended to. And they’ve been waiting a long time.
A big part of me wants to open a nice bottle of cool white wine and sit in the almost warm enough sun in the backyard, watching the tiny French lettuces push their heads through the compost and dirt.
The miracle of the compost, yesterday’s garbage reborn as tomorrow’s fertile ground.
This vintage anger, at the people who have hurt me and at myself, is ripe and powerful, fueled by the realization I am wasting Sunday in the garden time, getting mad all over again.
And it’s not just mad, that seems to be the entry-level emotion. If I let it move through me (and of course dig some more) there is sadness… a really deep profound sadness and hurt. And loss. And incredulity. I mean, how could anyone have acted that way? Who would EVER say that to a person, much less me?
And then, always, the deep self loathing that I thought (honestly) I had dealt with through endless mediations and yoga classes and therapy sessions and workouts. I thought I loved me.
Sometimes I am such a big…fool. Giving people second and third and fourth and fifth chances. I see their pain, I feel bad when they reach out (even though I know they have hurt me in the past), and I open my heart, forgive. And assume this time things will be different.
And, not surprisingly, they…do it all over again.
Do you know the story? The Crocodile sees the Frog on the banks of the river and offers him a ride. Oh says the Frog, thanks but…aren’t you a Crocodile? Don’t you eat frogs?
Don’t be silly, says the Croc. I would never do anything to harm you!
The Frog is uncertain? Really? You really won’t eat me?
No! says the Croc. Trust me, I want to help.
So the Frog hops on the back of the Crocodile and makes it across the dangerous river to the other side.
Where the Crocodile promptly eats the Frog.
The last thing the Frog says is “But I thought ?…you promised…?”
Well, he says, chomping down, you knew I was a Crocodile.
In the telling of this tale, I am the frog. Although almost certainly I have been the crocodile. And perhaps right now someone is typing with a clenched jaw, in disbelief, about ME.
(Possible, but unlikely)
So what do we do with these feelings that come up, when we find ourselves suddenly revisiting old hurt, or shame or anger? What do we do that doesn’t involve another glass of seductively crisp and numbing wine (my choice), or sex or drugs or a punishing workout, or a vanilla sprinkle doughnut? Or ten?
That is the question right now. What to do in this moment? Open another box; turn another page (or the other cheek?)
I guess you can avoid the boxes in the first place. But isn’t there some wisdom and even beauty in looking back? Sifting through the bits we thought we had thrown away… actually composting all the garbage this time? Fertilize new ground? Plant new seeds?
I am speaking of creative seeds here, but quite literally I am digging last years compost into the ground to grow more amazing tomatoes and sweet peas. I like form and function in my garden.
And apparently, the metaphor as well.
Nothing seems to be working: stuffing down or locking away or avoiding. The only choice left is through. Forward on this sometimes too bumpy road; a road that may lead to places we would rather not visit. Bitter, uncomfortable places, but you don’t have to live there.
The reality, for me anyway, is that I am still angry. I want the Karma truck* to make a stop at his house, and her house. I want all to be revealed, so I don’t look like a freaking crazy lady, mumbling in the shower or swearing as I pull out weeds or turn compost. I want to be avenged for all the wrongs, for all the hurts. I want someone, anyone, to rescue me from these thoughts. To tell me it is all right and I am not all bad, nor do I have unfortunate fashion sense.
I want someone to tell me I am fine just the way I am, curly crazy hair and imperfect teeth and a foolish open heart that keeps on caring long past emotional expiry dates.
I want someone to tell me it will be okay.
And here’s the rub, while we can lean on husbands or wives or partners or friends, siblings or strangers on a plane…or even our kids…
While we can confess all and wait for absolutions, or condemnation of our enemies…
It is a complete and total inside job. The only one doing any forgiving and comforting around here is…you. So know that when you start digging you are going to find some crap that you would rather have not discovered. (Whether you open the boxes or yearbooks or not).
And the forgiving is all yours…along with the joy and laughter and loving. Along with the self-love. It’s yours to give. And yours to receive if you want it.
And oh! If your Spidey Sense goes off when you are opening a box, or flipping a page, or agreeing to a lunch with a crocodile…
You can close the box or the book. Rebook or cancel.
How deep you dig is up to you, but some digging will be required.
And you know what? Turning over the soil (literal or figurative) is a good thing: it keeps me writing, searching, looking deeper and finding more. And my garden? Nothing makes the tomatoes grow better than last year’s garbage.
*”Karma Truck” courtesy of J. Allford.
Do you compost? If not, try it! It’s easy (a little messy) and quite rewarding.
Here’s what I do (and with lots of input from my Mom and Grandmother, both of whom loved the idea of turning garbage into rich rich soil).
-Get a compost bin. This can be something you buy, or build. I use a rotating one I purchased at Lee Valley Tools a few years ago.
-start off with a layer of dry leaves, then add a layer of something wet (kitchen scraps, lawn clippings etc.). Add some water. Mix well. At the beginning of each season I also add layers of Compost Accelerator that I buy at my local garden centre.
-add more layers, turn and keep warm. In no time you will have compost! This can be dug into existing garden soil as often as it is “ready”. Keep on moving your compost through and out into your garden. I do a big final “top up” at the end of each season in the autumn and by the spring, with a little turning and some accelerator, I have beautiful “chocolate cake” consistency dirt.
SOME THINGS TO COMPOST:
Keep a lidded container (and old ice cream container or a more posh Lee Valley stainless container) by your kitchen sink. When you are preparing veggies put the peelings, ends etc in the container. I DO NOT USE POTATO peelings at all. I do use eggshells (which are great). With the exception of eggshells, only use vegetable matter, no meat, bones etc.
Make a habit to empty your container at the end of every day into your compost. It’s a nice after dinner stroll and a chance to enjoy your garden.
And, if you don’t have a garden, there are many community compost initiatives. Hopefully there’s one in your city.