Winter is a time to slow down and turn inward. It can be a time for excavation. It can be exciting because our semi-conscious or unconscious mind afford us endless material. Imagine discovering some new aspect of yourself. Or even some buried part of your family history. We bury things for all kinds of reasons. We bury traumatic experiences we are not ready to process, we bury parts of ourselves that have been shamed like sexuality and even joy.
Recently we were getting dressed in our coats, gloves and hats to go for a wintery walk. Cole, 5 was all ready to go, except for his shoes. Where are his shoes? Could we have left them out at the beach? How did we miss carrying them in – they are bright green? We retraced our steps out to the empty beach and there are no shoes. We look and look. Finally I asked Cole, where did you last see your shoes?” And he replies, “when I buried them.” It did not take long to see where the sand was disturbed and dig them up. At that age something lost and something found is very exciting. He had read about Curious George burying things in the sand to cause his usual mischief and was trying it out himself. It is a beautiful children’s metaphor for our real psychological process. We all have the agency to bury things and this is very important to our mental health.
Culturally there is such a mystique around buried treasure – pirates with black patches over one eye, burying something so as not to get caught. Digging it up later and escaping with the chests full of jewels and gold coins.
One place to look for your buried treasure is where you still struggle.
I have struggled for much of my life with a sense of belonging. I was asked recently a simple question – “When did you first feel you did not belong?” And an astonishing answer slipped out of my mouth. It made no sense but there it was. I said, “I first had this feeling when my brother died.” What is so surprising is that I never had a brother and he did not die. But this sent me back to when I was 5 years old, like Cole is now. My mother was pregnant and had a miscarriage. My imaginary (but very real) little brother died. I was an only child with no brothers or sisters. I did not belong. I am now filled with questions. Why did my parents wait so long to have another child? Were we waiting to move from our apartment to our house? But then why did the house only have two bedrooms – oh, but wait, it did have three bedrooms (the third one was always called our den). I ask my older cousin, the only one now who might remember. She says, “I remember it was really sad when your mom lost the baby.”
Since excavating my little 5 year old’s hopes and dashed dreams I can grieve more and feel more my little ones loneliness. I can also feel how I belong now – just about everywhere I look. And most importantly a little part of myself just came back to be with me – where she belongs.
What have you buried? And what treasures does it contain? Those are my questions for you on this wintery night.