Moments of Clarity
We have been home from our 30th anniversary U.K. trip for nearly a month, which, as I type those words, seems impossible. Every day of our trip was rich, beautiful, sometimes exhausting, and often surprising. I retraced those first footsteps that I took in Hyde Park some 30+ years ago, and, as promised, I whispered to my husband, “This is where it all began.”
In London I got to revel in my youth—club hopping, pub hopping, Tube hopping—innocent days, really. Everything is as it was, and yet, new!
Covent Garden still bursts with color and music and excitement, but the Rock Garden Club is gone, and so my memories of all the New Wave & Punk bands are locked into the stone walls of a quaint restaurant that now fill its space.
The Hippodrome is no longer a disco; it’s a casino and a live strip show. Sigh…
My college looked the same, and I opened my arms in awe and joy for the time I had then. I thought I could wander around the neighborhoods of Kensington and Chelsea and find my way; I got lost more times than I can count. This is familiar. This is it! Down that road? No…maybe it’s over here.
Wandering. Looking for clues. I loved it! There was a hum of anxiety; a steady drumbeat of anticipation; a melody that beckoned me to turn, to look, to wander.
What I didn’t expect to find as I padded down cobblestone streets, or as I worshiped inside old abbeys, was threads of melancholy…grief…the slightest echo of, “Oh…oh, no.” Moments of clarity dislodged from decades of anger and hurt. And once they tumbled out, they were like old friends that I’d forgotten. “Remember us? You forgot about us…we need some attention.” Oh…oh, no.
I started this blog a few months back with the premise of narrative—how we don’t even know the clear truth of our story, but rather, a version of how life was and is; and that as we revisit these narratives with maturity and perspective and lots of failures, that narrative can shift. The darkness can give way to slivers of light.
And so I caught a sliver of light on the sixth day of our trip as we visited the medieval city of York. “I was here, once, when I was as a thirteen-year-old,” I said to my husband. “With my mom.”
Saying the word “mom” was like setting off a stick of dynamite in my brain. It is not an innocuous word, nor does it conjure up warm, loving feelings as it does for many. Mom to me is pain and confusion and disappointment. Mom is addiction and early death and despair.
But there I was, in that ancient city, the sun warming my shoulders, my loving husband by my side, hanging flowerpots filled with petunias bursting with color, and tears welling in my eyes. She stood where I stood. She would’ve been roughly eight years younger than I am now. She was on the precipice of a major life change. Again. In that medieval city of castles, city walls, and warfare, my mother believed that a knight would rescue her from her tower of violence and addiction. She walked these very cobblestoned streets of The Shambles, peering into windows full of English décor, tea sets, and wool sweaters. She wanted this beauty to transform her, enlighten her, restore her. It didn’t.
And I, with five years of recovery, whispered out loud, “Oh…oh, no.” Not an “oh, no” of fear or judgment, but of understanding. Compassion. Awe. Sadness. Frustration that she never kicked her addiction. All the trinkets and tea sets and marriages couldn’t change who she was; there was no knight in shining armor. There was no filling that hole. She didn’t see the light.
Isn’t it funny? We make our plans with great anticipation, and we travel across land and sea. We board airplanes and trains and fret over missed connections. We get lost. We wander. We have our itineraries, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, something totally unexpected arises, and we toss aside our plans to gaze at what is in front of us.
Slivers of light.