There are different moments, different markers. Picture them as buoys in the oceanic memory. They bob up at different times, depending on the wind, and the waves.
Sometimes this season is all about buoys. Every candy cane, or sparkling light, or shattered Christmas ornament is a trigger beckoning you back in time.
It’s not a mindset problem. It’s a cellular thing.
Maybe you can relate. This is for you.
It’s also for you if you know people who can relate. And don’t we all?
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with miniatures. I think my Great Aunt Lil from Wellesley (that’s how she’d answer the phone — “This is Elizabeth Houghton from Wellesley”) started it.
Every time we visited her house, she’d give me a miniature Guatemalan basket stuffed with tiny clothed wire dolls. Or a miniature perfect painted wooden steak on a perfect painted wooden plate.
She’s also the one who showed me the hidden fairy nestled inside every pansy.
Forget stamens and pistils. These were fairytale times.
When I was in elementary school, my mother married a new man and we were moving to Maryland. Before I left New York City, where my real father lived, my real father bought me a fancy Scandinavian doll house from the famous Manhattan toy store, F.A.O. Schwartz.
Two stories. Tiny perfect shingles. Blond wood. Bendable dolls and chairs and tables. Miniature cups and forks and knives. Everything just so.
I loved that dollhouse. Never mind the fights between my mother and her new husband who’d cut off his right ear to avoid going into the army to fight in ‘Nam. In that dollhouse I could arrange and rearrange the furniture. Twist the quiet dolls into polite poses. Pour yogurt into miniature wooden cups and leave them out for the fairies, and clap my hands when the yogurt was gone the next day.
Yes, I still believed in fairies.
Things went from bad to worse between my mother and her new husband.
Until one night, close to Christmas, because I remember the scent of pine and the angel hair we used to smother the tree lights and create a million little colored haloes — before the government figured out it was dangerous and left slivers of glass in your fingers and banned it– I heard a bottle smash.
Then the sound of a fist hitting flesh.
“I’m going to kill you!”
I was in my bedroom, not moving. Not making a noise. Staring intently at the light spilling in from the partially opened door and listening. Hard.
I did not think about saving my mother. I thought only of how I could survive. How far was the window? How much time did I have? Did they see me? I must’ve been seven or eight.
“I’m going to get my shotgun!”
Sound of the front door slamming, the Dodge Charger revving in the driveway, then screeching out in the street.
My mother came in to get me, and we were gone, into the night. Driving away. Gone.
So I wasn’t there when my mother’s new husband chopped up my dollhouse with an ax.
Why do I tell you this? I’m not trying to bum you out. I know it’s the day before Christmas. I am telling you because it popped up. Because the party reminded me of miniatures, and that led me back in time. And because we are about being raw and real here.
We are not about stifling feelings, or memories. Or stuffing away sadness or grief. Even if the emotions or memories come at weird times.
We’re only as sick as our secrets.
Have you ever heard that? Think about it.
Maybe reading this will give you permission to acknowledge a bad or troubling memory, let it rise up, then float away.
I don’t feel scarred today. I don’t feel shame telling this. It is what it is.
It is my truth.
Today, I’m writing this from my sun-drenched deck in Topanga, in a T-shirt and jeans, while two hummingbirds dive bomb through a California oak, and a red-tail hawk glides on air currents through a clear blue sky. All is serene.
Sometimes loss of innocence yields songs of experience.
When I share these songs of experience — when they are ready to be shared, when they are shaped — I feel deep connection. The connection of humanity in all its range.
One of the gifts I received from my background is that I can hold the psychic and narrative space for other people’s secrets, and shame, and horrors — as well as joys.
I share this gift with clients, and I am grateful for it. My background enables me to serve others in ways that help them feel safe to explore and expand their own narratives so they can step into their power as artists and entrepreneurs. I get to witness them transform their past into a powerful present, and a luminous future.
What’s your untold story? What would happen if you poured it onto a page?
What would happen if you shared it with your prospects and your clients?
Maybe sharing these untold stories is what giving is all about.