We all know, thanks to Freud, how important our childhood experiences are, especially our family relationships, in influencing the development of our psyches. But as I get older, and have time to ponder, I realise more and more just how much all our accumulated experiences, significant or not, affect the decisions we take and the choices we make.
A friend of mine, Rod Holmes, wrote this lovely poem:
God drops a soul into a pond
creating the ripples of our lives
which reverberate forever
but tranquillity always returns
It struck a note with me and I got to thinking about how our connectedness is like ripples in a pond, how one person touches so many different people’s lives. It could be someone we knew, or an author we read, or a musician we heard. These encounters stay with us, forever. Just writing this post has made me so aware of how those memories that lie buried and unknown in our minds, surface and guide us, in weird and wonderful ways. I read the poem, right? I wanted to write a post about it but I couldn’t think of a song as a title, and I couldn’t really think of much to say other than I liked the poem. Then today the Windmills of your Mind started to play in my head and I knew I wanted to use this as my title. But to be honest, I didn’t really know the song all that well. Of course I had seen the Thomas Crown Affair way back in the 70’s (and was desperately in love with Steve McQueen at the time) and I remembered the song but not the lyrics, so I googled them. And I was gobsmacked when I read them because there was the link:
“Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream”
Not only that, the words of the song are like everything I was trying to say:
Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle your head
Why did summer go so quickly
Was it something that I said
Lovers walking along the shore,
Leave their footprints in the sand
Was the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand
Pictures hanging in a hallway
And a fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the colour of her hair
We are all connected in ways we cannot begin to understand and our past is ever- present.
On the other hand, I do believe that we are born with a personality imprint and as someone called May L Becker once said:
We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves
I find that both scary and reassuring!
I‘ve seen this with my children. Kiera was a tiny, angelic looking baby. But she had an iron-will and didn’t, from day one, care too much for social pressure. When she was 15, our family experienced a particularly annus horribilis. 2001 started off with me having a hysterectomy which went wrong and, without wanting to sound too dramatic, I nearly died of peritonitis. Peter, I’m afraid, did not cope too well with the situation and, as I convalesced, Kiera began to take on quite a lot of responsibility for my care and that of Alex, of whom she became quite protective. It seems to me now no coincidence that not long after this Kiera developed scoliosis. I fear that the weight was just too heavy for her young shoulders. In the July of that year, Matthew, the son of a close friend, died tragically in a car accident. We were all devastated and, as those of you who have experienced the death of a loved one know, the world shifts a bit as you realise nothing will ever be the same again. Unfortunately I didn’t have the strength, or the awareness, to put my own grief on hold to provide Kiera with ballast on the shifting sands. Matthew had been like an older brother to her, he was her protector when she was growing up and I think he represented stability for her in our sometimes topsy-turvy lives. A few years later she gave a speech at his younger brother’s 21st and she told us how, when we parents were all sitting out on the veranda behaving badly, they would sit inside and watch “age inappropriate” movies and Matthew would always tell her when to close her eyes during the scary parts.
During 2001 my dad was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. He had also been slowly losing his mind because of Alzheimer’s, to the point where he didn’t really know who we were or where he was. We woke up one night to find him fully dressed and trying to open the front door. Peter carried him upstairs to his bedroom and I put him back into bed (he still had his pyjamas on under his clothes). I made us a cup of tea and sat and chatted with him ‘till he went to sleep. I asked him where he had wanted to go and he said “Home”. I tried to tell him that he was home, but I know that he didn’t understand what I was saying. Certainly not much of what he said made sense anymore by that stage. The next day my mum and I sat at his bedside and I told him that he was not to worry about Edna because we would look after her. And my mum told him that if he wanted to go home, she would understand. He died in his bed the next day, perhaps he had understood after all.
It wasn’t long after that, that Kiera asked if she could see a therapist because she was suffering from depression. I was rather dumbfounded but she pointed out that she was experiencing all the symptoms, and when she rattled them off to me I had to admit it did sound rather like depression! And it wasn’t surprising after all, with hindsight I think we all should have gone to therapy then. But, as I’ve always said, she’s the scarily sensible one. Fortunately she found her equilibrium, sooner than the rest of us but we all got there, eventually.
So life is a balancing act, between nature and nurture, and as Rod says (and I like to believe) “tranquillity always returns” – if we let it.
I hope you like this version of the song. I empathise with the “three legged screaming thing”. Recently, as I’ve tried to get Kho’s cabin habitable and have had to deal with unreliable electricians and hardware stores, I have had similar feelings!