There are two beliefs that flow like an undercurrent beneath all the stratified layers of anxiety in my life.
The details of our pasts make up the individual patches in the quilt of our lives and those patches are vital to the patterns we create in our future.
The most important, impactful and formative patterns in this quilt happen between the ages of 2 and 18-ish.
These two beliefs radiate from the core of 90% of my decisions and thoughts; everything from choosing to stay home with my children and planning ridiculous themed birthday parties for 3 year olds; to the sudden and painful pangs of regret I still feel over bad choices that have affected my present day-- such as the unfortunate placement of an Angel Fish tattoo above my ass crack.
Why Shannon??? WHY!?!? I keep telling myself to let that one go because I was just a kid, and I think the literal translation of kid in latin is "stupid shorter person." But every time my daughter points to my back and says, "fishie," I cringe.
I don't think anyone will argue that our pasts are important. The first thing therapists want to talk about is your childhood because the early years are when the imprinting begins. It's where the bad habits, emotional stunting, misguided belief systems and unfortunate neon fabric choices start to lay the foundation for your overall project.
If your childhood is not sewn with a deft hand, these fragile, threadbare patches multiply and start to look like something Jackson Pollock would have painted in the 80s. Don't get me wrong, a few bad patches are okay, good even! The ugly patches allow you to fully appreciate the subtleties of beautiful ones. We all have bad years and in my case it was most of the 90s, but if you don't improve your skill and tastes, the day-glo parts can stifle your ability to create an overall timeless piece. One that you'd be proud to hang over the back of your sofa in your golden years.
I say between the ages of 2 and 18-ish because it seems the earlier the bad shit and polyester starts to happen in your life, the harder it is to rid your quilt of these tendencies. If someone or something doesn't intervene in these years, it's likely that these patterns will muck up the whole damn thing and you live your life always regretting the early patches.
You can fill a lifetime repeating patterns and hating the result.
This is what happens to me from time to time and is exactly what I don't want for my children. I want them to have photographic proof of ridiculous themed 3rd birthday parties and as many chances as possible to witness their mother go bat shit crazy over little things. Somewhere, in my least rationale places, I really believe this will safeguard them against the regret of rainbow-colored fish tramp stamps.
Every writer has central themes that permeate their work and those are mine; our pasts and the decisions they motivate us to make because of, and in spite of, them.
Lately though, I have started to toy with a different idea. One that feels good, liberating and hopeful. One that I hope to incorporate somewhere in the lineage of my life's work.
The idea that maybe we are not the sum of our patches. That maybe we are something else entirely; something smaller and at the same time ethereal and infinite. Maybe our lives are but one stitch of a master quilt that could enrobe the globe, no... envelop the universe. Maybe, instead of immersing in the patterns of the past and the effects those patterns are yet to have on the future--always lamenting and projecting--maybe the focus should be on the stitch in time that is this moment in time?
Maybe then, all the anxiety that winds its way through my life can just fray away, taking with it the burden of regret and weight of expectation... and every string that comes attached.
Read more personal and social introspective pieces at www.shannonlell.com.
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