Polishing silver and my lesson on perception

October 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

I was chatting it up with my mom on the phone last night. She’s a regular follower of Zero to Sixty in Five, quite naturally. I mentioned something about one of the stories I’d posted recently when she said, “You make me look good on your blog.”

“Yeah… well, you are good and you were good. Well, except for the times when you weren’t. But that’s not the point of this blog,” I shot back. And that’s the truth, as Edith Ann* used to say. I’ll clue you in on the biggest surprise I’ve had since I started this project of turning my memories into blog posts, day after day, these past seven and a half weeks: the Law of Attraction seems to be at work.

Okay, okay… I’m aware of the arguments claiming the lack of falsifiablility and testability of the Law of Attraction — that the supporting evidence for it is anecdotal and has no basis in scientific reality. Won’t challenge those claims right now. But I am here to “self-selectively report” that the more I think about and write about the things my parents did to care for me physically and emotionally, to help me learn about my world and to help me grow up, the more of these instances I am able recall and the more I appreciate their efforts as parents. It’s been oh so unexpected, and rather striking.

DSCN9284-silver

I could liken it to the silver coffee service a friend bequeathed to me recently. When I opened the box and saw the condition of the set, I momentarily thought of carrying it right on out of my house. Mind you, I was aware of the set’s value, it was just that it didn’t appear all that wonderful in the moment. Right after the fleeting impulse to pass the set on to someone else, I got out the silver polish and a cloth and began slowly buffing the pieces in the set. Predictably, with each application of polish and each swipe of the soft cloth, a coffee carafe, a sugar bowl, a creamer and a tray were restored to a former glory. Little by little the luster of the set was revealed, and now, from the center of my dining table, the coffee service reflects a soft and subtle shine.

Is the set perfect? By no means. It had been sitting in the box a little too long before I got to them and the excessive build-up of tarnish had marred the pieces in some places. Yet, these imperfections don’t detract from my overall perception of them: the coffee service displays a loveliness as a centerpiece and prized gift from someone whom I dearly miss.

The process of blogging about my childhood has been a similar process: my memories are the silver polish, the blog format has been the cloth, and sitting down to write the stories has been the elbow grease. With the passing of each week, my perception of the relationship I had with my parents has been freed of a layer of hazy residue, deposited over the years by who knows what. I mean, I always knew fundamentally that my parents had done more than just a “good enough” job parenting me, because I have never not been in touch with a feeling of being wanted and loved. But there was an internal dynamic — which I’ll label dashed expectations — that tripped me up and left a subtle, nearly imperceptible film of dissatisfaction.

Most likely, I would never have admitted it to myself, much less you, even if you had peered into the nether regions of my heart and called me out on it. It wasn’t until I began this recent process that would unwittingly buff the undesirable coating away that I even realized I had allowed it to gradually accumulate. But that’s the nature of our perceptions — you know, the Law of Attraction applied negatively: we see the gap between the ideal parents portrayed by Hollywood and Madison Avenue (Ward and June Cleaver, the Huxtables, Reba, et al) and our real parents, with their real weaknesses and real failings — and we feel slighted, disappointed, or maybe even betrayed.

So, what might happen if we chose to intentionally reflect on the things our parents did best? Even if there might not be that many positives to recall? Might this be just the right time to let our mamas, our papas off the perfectionist hook and release our notions that they don’t deserve to be seen through the lens of positivity? What if, in this releasing, we allow ourselves to be transformed by reframing our imperfect childhoods? What if, instead of keeping a record of their wrongs, we found freedom and satisfaction in making an accounting of their pluses? What if we were to allow that plus column of the ledger to seep into the pores of our minds, and gratitude for the things they got right to overtake our hearts? What if, instead of the ways in which they failed us, we let these other things became our focus? Would the Law of Attraction kick in and begin to liberate us?

Our parents chose life; let us be grateful. Through them, we received our temperaments, our capacities, our natural gifts and abilities; let us be grateful. If they nurtured, provided, protected, guided, or taught us in any way, so much the better; let us be grateful. A sense of entitlement to a perfect childhood will rob us of an opportunity to be blessed. Just as droplets of water cling to other droplets, attraction drawing them together to form a meniscus, may our selectivity of focus restore the luster on our perception of our relationship to our parents.

And then, let’s let them know how grateful we are.

* [Edith Ann was a character created by Lily Tomlin.]

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