The Company You Keep
my greatest lesson
When I was a little girl I truly liked the company I kept. I would sit in one particular place in our kitchen where the sun flooded the floors and showed the days dust in an elevated, fluid ritualistic dance. I’d write poetry there about the yucca flowers and pineapple sage.
In the afternoons I’d swim breathless laps, and practice soccer for hours in order to keep up with all the boys, just to prove to my father that I could. And when I would make my snacks, I’d tend to the presentation thoughtfully- like I was making them for someone so special.
Everything I did was unwavering in its purity, I was honest in who I was, I liked the company I kept.
I have never been able to place the exact moment it all shifted, it is still blurry, displaced, and nonlinear, but I know it was during a time when I was almost old enough, but still too young to have to grow up. All I remember was having to lose it all in order to truly start again. It didn’t change me, but I was never the same. I stopped writing about the world in lucid around me, and I was far too far away to remember the yucca flowers and the scent of pineapple sage.
I fell in love with anything that exhibited permanence- the moon, the stars, any and every rock and stone. My studies taught me that there was a science to almost everything; reindeers eyes take on adaptation and change in colour through the seasons so they can capture more light in the dimly lit months of winter. Aspen Grooves root systems can lay dormant for years until conditions are just right. Most flowers bloom every spring in vibrant, alluring shades in order to attract an abundance of pollinators, while moonflower only opens in the evenings so as to attract the perfect moth. But there is no science to resiliency. Why salmon spend a lifetime against currents that resist them in order to find their way home. No one tells you how to do it- only that it must get done.
The awareness has always been learning to keep yourself company, and then learn to be more compassionate company. This has been my greatest lesson. I even went home and let myself be swallowed up by my inner child, wearing the the dust of the kitchen floor like a blanket I’d long left behind - the warm permanence of its nostalgia was always there waiting for me, I had just been looking for it in all the wrong places. Any great philosopher knows that in order to find answers, you must go back to where it all started. Go back to your beginnings, the grit and girth of your decending roots, in order to untangle them and find answers intertwined in their water systems, the invaluable rivers that give them sustenance. It feels similar to the layering complex of compost- going through it feels messy, gross, and hardly attractive in theory or aroma, but on the other side lies richly nourished soil for any and every bloom. We have to understand our own complexities, and not run from our very selves, before we can attempt to be of true service and useful to this world.
Someone once explained to me that when we have wounds in our body, the nearby muscles cramp around it to protect it from anymore violation and infection, so you need to use these muscles if you ever want them to relax again. It feels like a painful ripping sensation at first, but within minutes the pain is gone- and it is gone permanently.
I think that something similar happens with our psychic muscles. They cramp around our wounds– the pain from our childhood, the losses and disappointments of adulthood, the humiliation suffered in both–to keep us from getting hurt in the same place again, to keep foreign substances out.
But we are here to love. We are here to exercise our hearts. To tend to the muscles that paralyze, push, and pull around us to keep us safe. We are here to fall apart and find our way back together. To be swept up in the expanse of it all. It is what makes up the most vital fabric of our very being. There will always be switchblades that cut along the way, sometimes so deep that it will make rivers out of you, but there is art, music, dance, poetry, the wild, and the jewelled arms of loved ones wrapped around you for that. Yin yang, the ancient symbol of harmony, reminds us that life is a balancing act and most fulfilling when we learn to embrace its dualities. The most painful moments in my life have expanded me, and when pain left space remained. Space I filled with life itself.