The Greatest Gift I Never Used

So, yesterday was Father’s Day, or Fathers’ Day, depending on where you place that apostrophe. Covering my bases here.

I’m lucky. I have a great relationship with my dad. We’ve always gotten on well, and we have similar temperaments. I understand him. Plus, he’s kept all the stuff I don’t have space for but don’t want to throw out for the past ten years now. I think that counts for a lot.

I spent much of yesterday sat in his back garden, digging through the shed which has been home to some of my childhood treasures for a decade now. I didn’t plan things that way – when I moved in with him, age 18, it was a temporary fix to the problem of trying to move my sister and I from two large bedrooms into one smaller one. My divided childhoods merged into one house which didn’t have space for them both, and although the plan was to sift and sort and compress, that kind of never happened. Boxes of books and trinkets and treasures were placed in a shed which they never came out of.

Other things took over. Health, and the spiral of trying to work out what was wrong with me, and then before I knew it, I had moved out, and was thrust into the world of motherhood. The two-part childhood, which I had never resolved into one piece, had to wait. Part of me was in that shed, or in the loft. Growing dusty and damp; coated in cobwebs.

And now I’m here. Here as an adult, somehow, looking back on boxes which I’ve held in my heart for years, but not in my hands. Things I never grew out of and let go, but were left behind nonetheless. I’ve always had an obsession with nostalgia, and the past. I’ve spent over half my life trying to make sense of who I am, and I’ve always fallen short of the answer. It came to me, yesterday, that part of the problem is how much of me doesn’t add up.

As I looked over my old things, I started to realise how disconnected they were. Two worlds which never met. I have memories which I can’t place, because there is a section of my life which doesn’t follow the linear narrative of the rest. I can draw a line in my mind, connecting all the things I did with my mum, but my life at my dad’s didn’t run parallel. Those weekends and holidays existed in a different world – one where I didn’t have to wear the mask I wore during the week. There was no school. No homework. No anxiety. It was my sanctuary – and it existed outside of the rest of my life. A little bubble which protected me, but never integrated. As I looked back at my treasures yesterday, I realised that while I can put ages and dates to most of the things I boxed up at 18, I can’t do that for the things which had been in that room at my Dad’s house all along.

They exist in a part of me which escapes time. Weekends and summers blur into one. A decade of my life which doesn’t quite fit with the rest. Ten years of a part of me remaining static, while the rest of me grew and changed and matured. Treasures and trinkets which have so many memories, yet no age.

And the reminder of when my lives started to merge again lies in an envelope. That brief, strange few months when my two lives crossed in the other direction. When I would drive, once a fortnight, to spend the weekend with my mum, and then return home. And it’s funny really, because I had forgotten those months even existed. Forgot that part of me had even been there, until a black envelope reminded me of the Christmas when I had been free, and mobile, and ready to embark on a life where I could merge those two lives into one in my own time.

The greatest gift I never used was for a day at Brand’s Hatch. Before I had a chance to go, my licence was gone. The seizures had stolen my mobility, and that future. And in a way, they stole my past, too. Because there it stayed, in boxes. Left tucked away, while life took me further and further from the girl who never let go of them.

Further, but only in time. Because the thing which struck me most of all, as I looked over my old treasures, was how much I am still that girl today. The chaotic mix of things I owned and treasured all match the loves and interests I still hold dear. Books, a telescope, a typewriter, jigsaw puzzles, cut-outs from computer game boxes. Memories of hours spent making miniature worlds. Piece by piece it slots in place. And it’s funny, really, that I spent so long trying to make sense of who I was, when I never really changed at all. I’ve spent the last twenty years in an identity crisis of one sort or another, and as I slowly surface, I think I’m finally ready to start letting go of some of those boxes.

I don’t need to keep them all, slowly rotting in a shed or in a loft. I’ve had them all along. I’ll keep my black envelope though. It’s too easy for me to forget those few months where both halves of me came together again, and allowed me to grow into my future. And who knows. Maybe one day I’ll go to Brand’s Hatch after all.

Cold White Light

When I migrated this blog over here, I don’t think I had a very clear image in my mind as to why, exactly. I knew I had something I wanted to say, but I wasn’t really sure what that something was.

Well, it would certainly be expected and mundanely appropriate for me to announce with a flair that I have now discovered that purpose. Unfortunately, I haven’t. And the more time goes by, the more I realise the inherent truth in that. Not everything has its epiphany moment. Oh, we all have our moments of self-discovery, and the epiphanies are the easiest to spot and to share, but sometimes, the most important and fundamental realisations we can make about ourselves take time to arrive.

If an epiphany is like a light turning on in our heads, the slow-burning, life-changing ones are more like a dawn. Hear me out. Dawn doesn’t start when the sun breaks the horizon, filling the world with a new day. It’s not a “no sun/YES sun” kinda deal. It started long before those first bright rays crest over the hill, or peep past the tops of trees or buildings.

Dawn starts when the world gradually turns away from night. When the sky takes on a lighter sheen, and the stars begin to fade into the background. And that light isn’t yellow and warm. It doesn’t shine brightly and joyfully. That light is cool, and white, and it inches over us so gradually that it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when it started. You don’t see it getting brighter – you just look back and know that five minutes ago, or maybe ten, it was dark. That now it’s less so.

Life takes us on many ups and downs. If we let stories dictate what we should be feeling, we expect epiphanies. Sudden dawns, which spring from the darkness to fill us with all the energy of a new day. Love. Happiness. Achievements. All the good things are portrayed as a sudden uplift – a washing away of all our problems. Or a bridge which helps us walk above them. They don’t tell you that sometimes the first thing you notice is that the stars are fading into a sky which can’t yet be called blue.

The truth is, so often there is no sudden rush of knowing. We just muddle along, and then we look back and realise with hindsight how much brighter things are than they were before. Maybe one day that sun will crest the horizon and I’ll bask in the warmth of its rays. Until then, I think I’m content with knowing that it’s no longer night.