A big part of my journey into meeting myself fully, healing and integrating all parts of myself, has largely involved going back to parts of my childhood and revisiting events and times in my life that my conscious mind has no recollection of. Times that one usually files away in the long forgotten corner of the psyche, possibly because either there was something too frightening/painful/difficult about them to process as a child, or that they made us as children temporarily “adult”, in order to process quickly and “make it alright”.
Initially, every little discovery of even the slightest of pain or difficulty from my childhood, shocked me. The shock was almost always followed by a quick wave of denial, because 1) I genuinely don’t remember a lot of those times and 2) even when I have jogged my memory and accessed my unconscious, I have struggled to accept what has emerged because it has been difficult to acknowledge some of these memories as “painful” — my mind has a great way to paint happy all over a lot of small hurts to retain a larger picture that is “good”, presentable and most importantly, palatable.
I’ve had to go back, really way back, and meet with my child self over and over and over again. To sit with her, as she was sometimes sad, sometimes lost, sometimes confused, sometimes hurt, sometimes trying to keep it together, sometimes trying to belong, sometimes trying to understand, and really believe that everything I did — both physically/outwardly and emotionally/inwardly — I did from the place of innocence and love as only a child can do. This process has been all kinds of disorienting and distressing, before things began to make sense.
I understand now, that the shock and denial I experienced when revisiting my childhood came from believing that to acknowledge the pain, to make space for it, would be like tainting the largely wonderful, happy and harmonious childhood that I have had the privilege of. Enough years of doing this work, though, has now made me realise that this defence mechanism, to shut down and deny the pain, is also the work of a child who is and has always been deeply emotionally loyal to her parents. So to acknowledge an experience of the contrary is almost like being disloyal, or cheating on them somehow. But what a relief it is to know, as an adult with enough help from professionals whose work it is to hold our hands in navigating these complex dualities and emotions, I can hold them both — the joys and the pain, the easy and the difficult, the ups and downs — equally, without one affecting the other.
Lately, I’ve been looking at some of my childhood pictures, and I’ve been seeing them quite differently. I have rediscovered a connection I had severed somewhere along the way. A connection I had possibly pushed away, in pushing away the pain and the sorrow. An immensely important connection with that child, without whom I can get nowhere in knowing myself as an adult.
Lately, I’ve been looking at some of these pictures from various stages of my life and feeling all kinds of lost memories resurface. I’ve been suddenly seeing myself fully, as that wildly innocent, impish, bright-eyed, curious and easily excitable child that I was. And I’ve been feeling incredibly soft and tender towards her, with great levels of love flooding over.
And quite predictably (because I no longer pass these occurrences off as mere coincidence) pictures from my past have been finding their way to me through unexpected and surprising channels, even when I haven’t been looking for them. The most recent one came in last night from my cousin M. It’s not like we routinely share pictures from the past with each other, so to receive this made me feel an instantly deep, deep connection with the innocence of this child sandwiched in the middle of two older cousins she looked up to and wanted to grow up to be like at that time.
This is my new favourite picture of my childhood. A picture of a moment I have no recollection of. But clearly, I was thrilled then, I feel it just looking at myself.
Lately, I’ve been feeling very much in touch with the innocence and pure-heart that I had as a child. I feel so connected with, and fond of that twinkle in those eyes, the nimble limbs that were so alive and active all the time, the ruffle of curly hair that flopped around messily without a care in the world. And I am deeply aware that the renewed spark I feel for life today, the excitement I have been experiencing for every single day as it blossoms, and the gratitude I feel all the time has everything to do with rediscovering and revitalising this precious connection and holding it tenderly within.