When You Go and Return

The smell of wet earth is one of my favorite smells in all the world. All the landscape is green and grey, grass and clouds. Winter is never brown here. Nothing is ever brown here! It’s all the rain that makes the Tuis sing, and the ferns unfurl, and the moss cling to every surface. It holds to the air, making me want to breathe in more than I need to–like I can’t get enough of that green air inside of me!   

I am here, visiting family and the place I grew up–New Zealand. I am here ordering flat whites, eating meat pie everyday, and reconfirming my belief that pepperoni and cheese make for a lame pizza. We don’t do that here. We smother our pizzas with chicken, cranberry sauce, red onion, avocado slices and brie cheese. Yes. Or lamb with garlic yoghurt dressing. We make our pizzas this way, and we put eggs and beetroot in our burgers, and pineapple in our grilled sandwiches. Then we smother everything with tomato or sweet chilli sauce and sit out by the beach or in the harbor. Because even though it’s winter here, it’s still a good 60 degrees, and we don’t call this the city of sails for nothing!

Auckland City Harbor
Downtown
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For those who have lived and moved, and gone away and returned, you must know that the returning home can be a mixed experience. Or is this a leaving home? Coming and going are very debatable terms and they are certainly not mutually exclusive! You leave one home to re-encounter another, and try not to allow one place to feel inferior. New Zealand and California might certainly become jealous of one another. At times you feel you have to downplay one to justify another, or simply find the place where the two can run tandem together. It’s like a two legged race where both want to be the right foot!

I think most who have jiggled along this race have experienced that sometimes it’s easier to make your past your past and allow the present to play trumps. But I have never liked the suggestion that I have to walk completely away from something behind me–the idea that this right here is the real me and my real life and that over there was just something else. I run the two-legged race. But still, there’s something that doesn’t like to go back.

I’ve been looking at my bookcase of childhood journals all week and avoiding them with a queasy feeling until tonight when I was keen to clutch a few off the shelves–even ones from harder times. I realized I wasn’t avoiding memories of yesterday, I was avoiding memories of me. I was avoiding the mistakes and immaturities. I think that’s what we disconnect from most in our pasts–ourselves. We don’t think it’s worth looking at. We are ashamed. We are uncomfortable. There’s something about looking at who you were yesterday that can be like looking at your awkward 11 year old pictures (I swear not one decent picture was taken of me between the ages of 7 and 15!). You know you don’t look like that anymore, but it still speaks embarrassing things to you and pokes at your self esteem. But when we push ourselves away from our history, we make self acceptance about performance. Not looking back can be a form of self-hatred. When I realized what it really was I was avoiding and the treasure that was hidden in every stage of my history, I wanted to remember. I wanted to love who I was then as a part of loving myself.

I laughed my way through those old pages and enjoyed each piece of who I have been. Mistakes plenty, but after the levelling experience of time, it all looks beautiful. I found that I now have a greater value for myself and my sense of life is fuller. What could be richer than owning all the fullness of your history and loving it? On those rare moments when I get a chance to go back, relive a piece of history and have it coincide with who I am today, I feel incredibly full. I don’t ever want to strip value from any aspect of who I am or have been. I have realized that sometimes what we most need reconciliation with is ourselves. And when we are fully reconciled, we see beauty across our whole lifespan and more easily walk the places that touch past to present.
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