Over the last year I’ve become increasingly nostalgic, revisiting films and songs of my youth. Not necessarily the ones I love as I’ve kept those or bought them on CD, but the ones of those decades that remind me of then, whether I like the song or not.
I hadn’t really identified why I wanted to do this but I had recognised the need and gone with it. I wrote about it but hadn’t identified why there either.
Last Friday in counselling we had a very hard session, possibly the hardest one so far and come Monday morning I couldn’t identify anything that we’d talked about, which I knew was unusual. Then I remembered some of it. What would I have told myself to have done differently? Rebel, was my reply. Given the emotional loading of the dice, was this a possibility for me? Probably not, but I suppose I feel guilty for not having rebelled, for not having stomped and put my foot down. I think my parents squashed such feeling long before I was able to try out such actions and I had watched how my older sisters had fared when they tried their own versions. But I still feel responsible, that if only I had done something different, than life would be, well, different. My parents don’t feel that anything is their fault, so the logic follows that it must be mine. Indeed when I started counselling my mother asked 3sis whether it was going to make me angry with her.
The question, “if I could go back and tell my younger self something what would it be?” made me think, really think. Would I tell her that I love her? Maybe, but that’s not really the issue. What I wanted to do for her was to give her what my/our parents couldn’t and didn’t: listen to her, and respond to what she said. And a big hug wouldn’t go amiss either. Make her feel that she mattered, that her thoughts and feelings counted. And I started really feeling what I felt then, how lonely and isolated I felt.
On Tuesday night this all caught up with another conversation I was having with myself and ended in a great deal of tears being shed but also understanding. I have said for the past 18 months in counselling that I needed to be able to cry in my sessions, that I needed to be able to get in touch with my emotions. I recognised it as a need but, again, I didn’t really understand why. I’ve come close these past few sessions, maybe even shedding a tear, but no more. Tuesday night I was doing something I used to do all the time as a teenager that I had stopped when I had left home: listening to music in bed in the dark before going to sleep, partly because it’s fun and partly to help me relax.
On this occasion I was thinking about the layout of my various bedrooms, of the bed in relation to the window, and feeling the weather of whatever sort on my face, and trying to recapture those feelings. I was listening to Magic FM which plays schmaltzy love songs at that time of night and just bursting into tears. It was not about yearning for the grand love of a love song, unrequited or not, or for feeling those sorts of emotions. It was remembering that for that little girl I used to be, such hope, dreams and freedom had been squished in me before I was old enough to understand what they were. It also explains my inability to dream the fantasies that I had once dreamt. Love films have the same effect on me now; even if they end up happily ever after I cry at the thought of that happiness. I never used to.
In order for me to come to terms with who I am now, I have to stop feeling guilty and responsible about the actions I couldn’t have taken as a child, and to really acknowledge that I couldn’t have taken those steps. I don’t have to forgive me, because there is nothing to forgive but I have to feel that rather than just think it. I need to understand who I was then, and I will get that by remembering and feeling how alone I really was, how isolated and helpless I felt as well as the other emotions that I can’t quite identify yet. Not just that “I cried every night for two years” as my mother said, but to remember how crying myself to sleep really felt then and to allow myself to grieve for that loss.