(Song Dedication: Guiding Light by Mumford & Sons)
I see glimmers of her essence in other humans who I’ve been privileged to cross paths with; a wholeness of clarity, authenticity, compassionate grace. Pink cheeks, golden hair and the bluest eyes, to me she was perfection embodied. We were 5. Her packaging was one thing but it was her inner beauty I was most drawn to.
Laying shoulder to shoulder under her bed while she told me the most whimsical stories of an imaginary underground world built by tiny creatures who only communicated with one word (I wanted to believe had to be real)…only later in life recognizing these tales as her interpretation of Pierre Burton’s The Secret World of OG (which dove tailed with Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock quite nicely, being 1985); whisking me away from the pain residing in my own chest and home just 7 houses down the street from hers.
This was all fairly straight forward for her; I presume now, as an adult. We were little girls just passing time with play and our imaginations. I didn’t know how to talk about what I was experiencing at home, like most kids who witness violence and endure trauma. So, instead of talking it came out in my posture, my neediness, my inability to harness my emotions…instead watching helplessly as they erupted from my chest in what adults referred to as temper tantrums; my desire to attach to someone safe who didn’t frown at me in disapproval.
Shortly after my Mom finally found a way to permanently separate from bio-Dad who at the time (“time” meaning for about a decade) had a predilection for alcohol and violence (usually at the same time), I was left spinning in a vortex of confusion. No more of his violent outbursts and being barricaded behind bedroom doors, but also his Father-like presence absent suddenly and completely; creating another layer of uncertainty.
The Father absence weighed heavy one afternoon while biking with my friend on the weekend. We lived on a dead-end street and use to careen our banana-seat bicycles assisted by the steadying training wheels along the cul-de-sac over and over, pumping the pedals with our jelly shoe sandals…freedom for a 5 year old. On this day I pulled up to the end of her driveway, ready to take some laps and then maybe sit in the empty lot picking blue belles for a rest, when she walked her bike toward me proudly. She was sunny as always and asked if I was ready. I wasn’t…noting the absence of her training wheels and asked where she had put them.
She, still smiling, told me her Dad had taken them off because he just taught her how to ride without them. Before I could recover and make sense of the situation, my senses became overrun and I began to sob uncontrollably. My friend reacted quickly by dropping her bike and running away to the house. But like the wise soul she was, there was no intent to abandon, she knew she couldn’t talk me down but she somehow knew what I needed.
She came back moments later with her Dad, who was carrying his toolbox. No one told me to stop crying or stop my silly behaviour, no recoil from my inappropriate outburst. They approached slowly and then her Dad asked me if I would like to learn how to ride my bike without training wheels too. I stopped wailing and nodded yes. He flipped my sparkly blue bike on its side and removed each white training wheel. He stood behind me as I hopped back onto the seat, tippy toes steadying my balance, he asked if I was ready. I again nodded yes and he ran with me, holding the back of the seat all the while, until he couldn’t because I was now going too fast all on my own.
I needed a Dad and so she leant me hers. It is still one of the most selfless gifts I have ever received. I didn’t understand the significance of this life event, until decades later, and even right now, as I write it still fills me with gratitude.
What this little girl gave me was more than her Dad for a childhood milestone moment. She gave me presence and kindness, acceptance and compassion and this in a way imprinted on me leaving a blueprint for connection that I would continue to seek out into my adult years.
Since my recent write, about the purge, I have become more vulnerable as I opened myself up to visitors coming to our home to shop the things I had been collecting en masse because of my shopping addiction. As this energetic shift unfolded, I found myself in more situations where I was having these meaningful interactions and conversations with others as well. The types of interactions that feed your soul.
Whether it was someone opening up about their health or relationship challenges, conversations about the spiritual or the Hygge way of life, and even the difficult conversations I had to have with my GP and then myself to navigate my needs being met, these interactions have had great purpose and in each of the people who have given me their time, energy and ear…I see a reflection of “her” in all of them.
It makes me yearn for my friend Sue, who originally came into my life as a massage therapist living in Penticton. She intuitively knew how to handle my pain and we soon became friends, during our weekly conversations on her table. Years would pass with this strong, courageous woman who took a seat in my corner, always championing me…seeing things in me I could not see myself. She passed unexpectedly, far too soon, leaving a wake of sadness for all the people who loved her so…her circle was vast yet intimate. Another true example of compassion in motion. She had it for herself and so she gave and gave and gave. God I miss her but am thankful for the lessons she taught me. Oh my sweet Sarah she always said every time we were together. She was wealthy in her sense of self, just like my first friend.
Last week, after someone saw my clothing sale on facebook, she reached out with a PM. I did not know her. She shared she had just moved to town and did not have a car but wondered if I could perhaps meet her somewhere so she could try on some jeans and shoes. I hesitated for a moment and then found the courage of the strong women who I admire and came up with a plan. We decided to meet at the mall by her home, and she could use the washroom there as a change room. I felt pleased with myself to present this solution (until that night when I watched the episode of Grace and Frankie, where they go to a Senior’s Crime Prevention class and learn they should avoid mall washrooms as a common target for crime). I hesitated again but dismissed any notions (because I am an able bodied -well, sort of- 39 year old) paying attention to my gut that was actually saying nothing.
When we met, I found her sitting on a wooden bench by the washrooms looking at her phone, a pretty young woman who smiled as I approached. I realized she was also taking a leap of faith meeting me…who was consequently also a stranger. She thanked me for meeting her and took the bag into the back hallway where the washrooms were located, along with a back door that lead to a parking lot. I sat down to wait and thought she could easily choose to walk out the exit with a pair of sneakers and 6 pairs of jeans if she wanted to. I resigned myself to this as well, deciding if she really needed them that bad, then she did.
I sat and waited and when she returned, smiling again, she said she wanted 4 of the 6 pairs of pants and the shoes fit well too. Then the money talk needed to happen which I told her I wasn’t even sure how much the total was and if we could look at the tags I had marked…she quickly responded with “I owe you $75” simultaneously unfolding some small bills to hand over. I felt a tug in my gut and asked her if she thought that was a fair price, which confused her a bit so I added, “I am giving you a chance to advocate for yourself, so if you think a different price is better for you, like, if you can use some of the money for other important things, please tell me.” She was taken aback but suggested $60. I bartered myself lower, better reading the situation saying, “I’ll take $40”.
She looked down for a moment to collect herself, taking a deep inhale and then looked at me with teary eyes explaining that she was wearing the only pair of jeans she owned and this would help her a lot. She thanked me profusely through tear welled eyes and I hugged her like I knew they would have.
We parted and she sent me a few kind text messages after. It was worth every moment of my time and dollar out of my pocket, that I can tell you.
Well, after that enlightening encounter a bunch of dots connected and the purpose of the proceeds from my clothing sale became very clear to me. I had been told some personal information by someone who is another very strong and courageous woman. I just knew that the circumstances were the perfect fit for the money I was bringing in from selling off the material things I no longer needed. The process helped me and so this money needed to help someone else too and I knew who the recipient needed to be. I’ve since enlisted my facebook friends to help me raise more funds and its encouraging to see more people stepping up to help someone in need.
Like attracts like. The closer I look, the more intently I pay attention, the more I see the reflections and refractions of this first compassionate holding that begun with an old soul 5 year old girl, in everyone. Sometimes it’s buried so deep, but my newer, keener awareness sees her everywhere now and what a lovely place this is to exist, where everywhere I turn there she is. In you, in them, in me.
(If you’d also like to donate to this family, please send me a message to make arrangements.)