As assist in class today helping me move a little deeper in Agnistambhasana (Firelog pose) was offered with the words: “don’t do anything, just breathe”. It was undoubtedly the most reassuring instruction I’d heard in a good few days and filled me with quiet relief during those moments. After all, outside of the movies, Christmas with the family is not a time for wise advice to be imparted by the seniors to the willing ears of the newer generation. In fact Christmas this year felt something of a practice of receiving criticism without reacting unwisely in the heat of the moment. As my parents age and become absorbed in the anxieties of that stage of later life and as I consciously practice a new way of being in the world in the very middle of my life (all being well!), we come to disagree over many things and they are somewhat less tactful in their way of expressing themselves. I guess that’s the prerogative of parents!
After all these are the people who bore me and raised me, did their best for me, and made me much of what I am. And although there is quite a lot from that that I’d now like to change (and am slowly, consciously changing) there is also much to celebrate and many shared moments of true love and joy throughout my childhood. Whenever I travel to my parents’ house I still call it ‘home’. In some ways it always will be, despite the fact that Hubby and I now own our own home and are independent adults. My parents still live in the house I grew up in and lived in until university days. Each room could tell its stories, every corner of the garden too. Hubby and I stay in my old bedroom, the one I almost died in as a baby, the one I played in with my brother and his Lego sets, where I studied for my school exams, and came home to during university vacations or between travels, emptying out a rucksack full of dirty clothes and stashing my cigarettes carefully out of sight.
During the Christmas period in this setting, I trod my way unevenly between the adult I am in my own life and the child I used to be. My parents too are uncertain in their role: one minute dispensing unsolicited opinions and censure, the next asking for my help and reassurance for their own small difficulties and larger fears. I showed my dad how to massage a cramping leg muscle that’s stopping him walking easily, advised my mum on a corn on her foot and an ulcer in her mouth (I sometimes wonder if they really know I’m not that kind of doctor!), as well as fixing up the fuse box, resolving some email confusion, opening lids on jars and so on…
I guess the parent-child relationship evolves and both sides are just making up their lines as they go along. We’ve none of us been here before. Although I feel a little wounded by the experience of Christmas this year, I’m trying to reflect on it (thanks to patient listening from my yoga teacher today providing some perspective) and take some solace in the genuinely joyful moments from this holiday. My mum had found a few old pictures of family holidays from when we were little. I’ve copied the one here of me and my dad studying insects somewhere in France. We had such a close relationship back then even my mum confessed to feeling excluded. I was a total daddy’s girl. I still am, even if I feel I’m disappointing him a bit right now. This picture was a good reminder of all that we have shared together.
Now that I’ve been a day back in my own home, my dad has already sent me two emails. I feared further controversy, but they were just a line each, trivialities. Now that the mist has dispersed a little (or the remover of darkness has reminded me of my responsibilities) I can see that he is reaching out to me, trying to make amends or repair the little fissures in our bridges. I need to meet him in the attempt. After all, on some level I’m still his little girl.