Sometimes it’s good to take a break from doing things the same old way. I have a tendency to start my morning off with a cup of coffee and a few quiet minutes. I have always made my bed as soon as I got up and opened all the blinds to let in the morning light as well. There is a comfort in the familiar that is very hard to describe. It’s found in expressions such as “there is no place like home”. Well, before the popular movie the Wizard of Oz came out the expression was actually “be it ever so humble, there is no place like home…”.Most of us can remember very specific scenes from the places that we have lived, loved and worked over the course of our lifetimes.
The feel of a certain chair, the smell of the common rooms after they’ve been cleaned and dusted, The way the light spills in through a favorite window-these details make our memories come alive in three dimensions. There’s a significant way in which the sameness of our routines interacts with the repetitive ways that we use our spaces and possessions. There’s a patina of wear on the habits of our lives that is precisely like that found on old pieces of brass décor. Buffing out all of the patina with polish and rags would cause our lives to lose something of their unique character. People who care for old pieces of brass will polish them up without removing all of the evidence accumulated from many years of repeated use. Evidence of age, use and wear add perceived value to these pieces in the eyes of the collectors who purchase them. Some artists, craftsmen and hobbyists will add patina to a piece.
Textiles are also sometimes given the appearance of age and long use through techniques that distress the surface of them, adding an interesting element of appeal. Real patina on leather, metal or wood, however, is prized for its association with age. Singularity is also a factor, since any item that has acquired this surface trait or veneer naturally is unlike any other similar object in the world. Its history being necessarily unique, no duplicate exists to acquire anywhere or at any price. Old books, old cars, old clothes, old fixtures, old furniture… it’s all sorted by time, style, method, means and location of production. For some collectibles, there are more objects than buyers. For others, the reverse is true. Either instance will affect perceived value and price to a greater extent than materials used.
It makes sense that we want to hold on to some of the unique character that our lives have accumulated to date. We even want to hold onto the unique character of the objects that others used in their lifetimes! Nobody is going around painting over old masterpieces on display at the museums or buffing out cave paintings and other memorials from the civilizations of past millennia. On the contrary, we placed the greatest significance and value on these bits of cultural detritus. These are just a few of the jigsaw pieces to some very old puzzles that only hint at the larger scenes of which they form some part. Whole disciplines are dedicated to the study of ancient artifacts whether they are weapons, pottery, metal, glassware or apparel.
These civilizations are essentially studied through the lens of their residue, including language, writing and any physical artifacts as described above. As additional artifacts come into evidence, working theories of how these past peoples may have lived and constructed their lives in every sphere are often revised. The same can be said for artifacts of our past in terms of our memories: when they arise from the depths of our subconscious and emerge into conscious awareness and analysis, they are revisited, reinterpreted and reintegrated into our memories again. Working theories of who we are and how we came to be are revisited, revised and reincorporated into our self-concept. Everything is subject to reinterpretation and revision.
Our estimation of our moral rectitude, felt sense of competence in different seasons of our lives and understanding of our capacity to make a difference are all factors under ongoing revision. When we meet up with someone who tells us the same old stories about themselves in the same old ways, we are likely to surmise that they’re stuck. Whether it’s a jock revisiting the glory days of high school football and wrestling or a woman in her fifties reminiscing about how beautiful she was when young, the focus on those old reference points can be unhealthy. Insistence on their primacy as plot points in life’s story after they have aged out of relevance to the present time can seem comical, dysfunctional, eccentric, misguided and even tragic.
People can be enmeshed in the past for a variety of reasons, including anxiety, nostalgia, trauma or unconscious motivations. Any of these instances perpetuate a rigid narrative based on a limited array of plot points and other references that support a very redacted view of things. When carried to extremes- when individuals and organizations act in the present as if conditions from the past were still in operation, a heavy cost is incurred in the form of broken perspectives on identity, relationships and roles. Our psyche naturally draws back from situations where duplicity is in play. When things feel out of phase or out of alignment with what is real, authenticity is impossible. Consequently, so are growth, healthy function and intimacy with the self and with others.
Each of us weaves the narrative of our lives in terms of the story that we tell ourselves; we embellish and embroider an old experiences that we have encoded in the tableaux, memories, inspirations and associations of our conscious and subconscious selves. Sometimes we are faced with some very distressed fabric upon which to work due to prior instances of violence, trauma, neglect and conflict. It can feel distressing not to be able to toss out this old fabric with its prior associations and a sense of its possible ugliness. The raw materials with which we are working aren’t of nearly as much consequence as the level of skill and craftsmanship with which we engage the work of living out our lives. And- to the greatest degree possible- it behooves us to remember that beauty and worth are inherent, waiting only for the skill of the artisan to make them evident.
Remember that value isn’t determined by the raw material alone, but by the story that we tell ourselves about it in terms of the wisdom and information that we can derive from it. Like those old cave paintings and other relics of bygone eras, the materials that we are crafting on now were generated in the primordial days of our earliest existence. Their value is all the greater for their relative rarity and the significance that we can derive from reworking these pieces or reframing them is immense. Get inspired by your own story. Tell it in the way that best serves your values and the legacy that you desire to leave. Act, in the moment, out of the sacred self that you are. Connect the past, the present and the future into one glorious, epic tale of your own design and you’ll find the wealth in the masterpiece of your own existence.
If you need a safe space to retell some of the pieces of your own story, call us. We’re here to help.