History Lesson

23 years ago, in 1984, June 15th was also a Friday. And I was 17, and just about to graduate from high school. That night I went on a date with a very cute boy – we went to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and after the movie we went for a walk along the riverside path of the South Saskatchewan River. And we stopped at a particular spot where the path spiraled around a circular flowerbed with a gazebo – and we clumsily kissed.

Some years later, our marriage (yes reader, I married him) was in a really bad place and we were sitting in a counsellor’s office far, far away from that South Saskatchewan riverbank. It was our first session and we were nervous and not really sure where it was all going to end up. My husband was sitting in a chair opposite me and I noticed he seemed distracted. Frankly, it was pissing me off a little. We were paying $80 an hour, the least he could do was concentrate! But then he got up out of his chair and grabbed my hand and said, “You’ve gotta see this.” So I got up and looked at the wall behind me where he was pointing – the counsellor had a calendar on her wall. It was one of those freebies from the bank that had postcard style scenic pictures for each month -and in its attempt to sell itself to as broad a market as possible, it featured at least one picture from each province. Saskatchewan’s scenery is, shall we say, understated and subtle – harder to find the kind of “look at me!” shots that these calendars seem to demand. But there, hanging on the wall in the counsellor’s office, was a picture of the exact spot of our first kiss. Seeing that picture was like a sign from the past and the future all at once. We knew what lay ahead might not be easy, but we also suddenly had hope it was going to work out. We realized that we had been so hurt that we hadn't allowed ourselves to even begin to imagine that we could have a positive future together. Our story – our history – presented itself to remind us that we were more than just this painful moment in our relationship.

The point of this story – and I do have one - is that sometimes what looks like an ending is just your life spiraling up to a new viewpoint. Arriving at that counsellor’s office I had a knot in my stomach, my heart was racing and I was in the midst of one of the most desperate and painful times in my life. In that moment I could never have imagined that my marriage would end up being more wonderful than I had allowed myself to hope. But that period of turmoil and hurt ended up being an essential step into a fuller life.

I try to take what I’ve learned from that into other parts of my life. This is how I try to view my journey – as moving up a spiral. Going up a spiral can sometimes feel like going around in circles. But each time I come to a place that has that “I’ve seen this view before” feeling, I am actually looking at it from a slightly higher place than I did previously, I am looking at it from a place of more experience, more wisdom and more self-understanding. Instead of getting discouraged, I try to look around and say:

Oh, I recognize this, but what is different since last time I saw it?

What do I know now that I didn’t then and what can I learn this time?

What dream am I too scared to dream for myself from this place?

And then I let myself dream it.