I was rearranging a room the other day, and something made me turn over the art piece in the attached picture. I had forgotten entirely that there was a handwritten message on the back. The art had been given to my grandparents from my aunt and cousin. All of these fantastic and beautiful people have now passed. Most recently my cousin John who left us this Summer.
I studied the image. It reminded me of a story that my cousin Don had told at the service for John. It was about how they had crept into my grandparent's backyard and thrown his prize tomatoes over the fence in fascination. They were around four and five and apparently, they thought it was a magic land where things just disappeared!
The message brought tears to my eyes. So many of our loved ones have passed and so many times forgotten. I realized how often I have heard others say, "When you look back, you will remember these times fondly" or "Someday the children won't be at home, so make the most of them now."
People having to be reminded to take in the moment and to appreciate who they have is a symbol of how busy and disconnected we have become. There are many times of my life that I wish I could go back and redo or feel again in its full sense.
I grew up in England and travelled to and from Canada each year with my sister. I have happy memories of Christmases coming to Canada and being with my family. We did get up to a lot of mischief and laugh until our sides hurt. My older cousins Don and John, were the brothers I didn't have and always set us up with pranks and craziness. My grandparents would greet us with freshly baked butter tarts and a warm hug. My aunts, uncles and stepmom would make fantastic food and delicious coffee with lots of chatter and laughter and my dad would always play a plethora of music and create mischief.
My cousin Maryellen was my extra sister who introduced me to diverse music, movies and was part of my learning in being true to who you are.
Such coziness of memories I have worked to instil in my own life. I realized over the years that trying to re-enact this wasn't possible as although I could replicate the food, the music and tradition, I couldn't bring back the people. Ultimately the people and their souls made the magic. The ones who have passed bring their magic in different ways each year. The family that are here live near and far and the times we have are precious. Precious and very different from before. The solid foundation of these times settled into my being and allowed me to know the feeling of tradition and warmth.
I was out the other day and observed people scrabbling around with deep lines of stress on their faces. The shops all with line ups and people on their phones half-listening to those around them. The amount of detachment in our world today is incredible. This kind of detachment blocks us from being present or to feel experiences in the full sense. Many were taking time to take the perfect or happiest shot to share on social media or trying to make something feel good at the detriment of their own wellbeing.
When you truly look around you, who will be here this time next year? No-one knows. No-one knows what is going to happen one second from now, one minute from now or one year from now. All you know is right this very second. If you are disconnected right this very second, it is an illusion. You are giving your time away to falsities and fantasies. If all you know is this moment, don't you owe it to yourself and loved ones to be fully present and connected? To feel the fabric of love and your own tradition?
Remembering the past times, good or bad all have growth. They are reminders of what you do and don't want in your life.
The biggest lesson I had from reading this art was the reminder to laugh and to be taken back for a short time to the warm hug of past times and souls I miss. To have another Christmas with them all and hear their laughter in the kitchen and the warm hug after sledding in the snow and being snow pilled by my cousins is far more valuable than anything that can be purchased.
I am blessed to have a vast family in both England and Canada. My children experience love and tradition in many different ways and beliefs. This gift is to be comfortable in diversity. Although the times of the art piece are precious and irreplaceable, my amazing huge family creates new traditions and milestones every time we meet. Each generation learning and growing from each other.
Our family holds honour to those we have lost by carrying on some of our loved ones traditions. It is our small way of acknowledging the times we had and the love that they keep giving.
I hope you are able to take a moment this holiday to hold space for those who have passed before you. For anyone feeling the sorrow of lost love, I wish for you peace in you heart and to know that your loved ones are with you.
Wishing you all a loving and peaceful holiday.
The famous quote from Forest Gump about life being a box of chocolates always stuck with me, let alone some of the other amazing parts of the movies. I often pondered on the character of Forest and that this movie was released when mental health wasn't really talked about as it is now. My daughter currently works at a co-op placement in the life skills classes at a high school. It is one of her happy places as the students are just them. The students don't hide behind masks, as many of society does these days. They are just them. Emotions are out on the table and moods showed on display. Their souls shine brightly without the traps of social restraint that goes on for the rest of us. Forest had people who loved him for who he was irrespective of his thoughts or actions. They saw the sheer beauty of his soul.
The reference to the box of chocolates was a fantastic example of how expectations in life can be one of our biggest undoing in being mindful. Setting out with a prior thought of how something will be is not allowing the beauty of surprise or seeing the wonder of what is. The bite of the chocolate and anticipation of what flavour it will be allows the burst of bountiful flavour on your tongue or humorous reaction of distaste.
I was thinking about the game Bean Boozled that my children have loved playing or the Harry Potter Bertie Botts beans. So many times, there was much angst over if they were going to bite into vomit flavour or Berties earthworm flavour and then not wanting to play. Part of me couldn't blame them as let's face it who wants to eat vomit or earthworm flavoured beans! Each day of our life can be like Bean Boozled or Forest's box of chocolates. You can walk life with the sheer wonder of what the day will bring or in fear of the worst outcome. Forest approached life allowing opportunity to knock loud and clear with openness to his journey. What flavour of interactions and connections will happen? If some of the day is more like a vomit bean, then trying to find the humour or finding the lessons is far less impactful than attaching to the awfulness.
Taking lessons from those who walk in a world like the character of Forest Gump can be so very freeing. To learn to be in the now and not attaching to it. Now I am mad. Now I am sad. Now I am happy. The emotions come and go. Most of us feel an emotion and then create an attachment to it. If we are angry or sad, we might fear this emotion and do everything we can to not feel it or worry that there is something wrong. Often it is just our body processing stress of emotions; it is human. If we are happy, we often want it to last or try and recreate the feeling rather than allowing it to be. With this style of emotional attachment it takes far longer to heal or recover and can create an unhealthy coping strategy for feeling happiness.
Many people find it hard or uncomfortable to be around people who have developmental disabilities or who are having large emotions. The main reason behind this is mostly due to feeling inadequate in how to be, or it is a mirror back in their own life showing areas of their own emotion they can’t handle. As soon as we see people or ourselves as limited it can disempower and restrict the interaction and experience.
We are all human. We all have a heart, emotions and soul.
In life, can you spin the dial on the Bean Boolzed wheel of life and be open to what it lands on? Can you pick out a chocolate and eat it without knowing what the flavour is? Can you walk your day open to all possibilities?
If this thought instills fear, hesitation or doubt, then I encourage you to approach life much more in this way. Being in the now is freeing and allows so much more joy to come to you.
We can all learn from those who are free from the limitations and traps of society pressures. I for one am going to spinning the wheel and go for it!
Andrea Lines-Botell is a mental health advocate and life coach with a passion for dynamically supporting change.
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