Well I did it. I stepped out from the shadows and into the inter-web light. I’m blinking hard but standing still. Gosh, it feels weird! After many (many) years of avoiding all kinds of online malarkey I finally feel ready to speak and share. And here’s the thing: it’s kinda fun. Scary, but fun. Blog post number one here we go!
I guess all of us have boxes in the attic. Or if we don’t have an actual attic we have boxes in our minds that Pandora has carefully sealed up and woe betide anyone who opens them. In the attic I’m picturing dust-covered suitcases filled with old photographs, old toys, that musty smell as you peek inside, all the while hoping you won’t disturb a rodent of some sort (or a grumpy ghost). The spiders in the eaves watch with disinterest as you lift items up and sigh.
Since such things have been assigned to a box and hidden away there’s usually uncertainty about what’s inside. Did I put my school prefect badge in this box? Are the old photographs from Granny’s flat in this bag? Wondering what’s there is part of the excitement about rooting around up there in dusty spaces. My friends Sally and Adam moved into a gorgeous eighteenth century coach house and soon discovered a safe of some sort embedded in the bedroom wall. Should they try to open it? Would they find a rusty key somewhere that fitted the lock like a fairytale? And biggest question of all: what the hell was in there? Years later and they still just sleep next to it. It remains closed and silent. I remain intrigued!
Whatever turns up, it’s inevitable that memories will follow. And memories are tricky beasts; good, bad, unclear. There’s a lovely moment in Amelie when she discovers an old toy tin and tracks down its owner, now an old man, in order to return it to him. His tears on opening that tin and seeing little toy soldiers are full of that odd mixture of late-in-life happiness and sadness. This is what memories can do. This is what boxes in the attic can do.
And sometimes those memories have been covered up for good reason. My wonderful mother-in-law, Rosie, found newspaper cuttings in her loft some years ago that described the 1981 hunger strikes here in Belfast. At that time Rosie was a young nurse and those traumatic images were folded away along with the newspapers and put in a box and never spoken about for decades. On discovering those papers, though, Rosie began to share her own stories and we family members sat at her feet and listened. It was incredible to hear all that she had seen and done during those terrible times.
And here’s what happened: catharsis.
It was truly an emotional act. Words have power. Spoken words in particular. The wellbeing industry is probably right – it’s good to talk. Something shifts when voices are heard and memories are brought into the light.