Posted by: lmcg1 | July 6, 2017

Summers of sixty-nine

I recently came across this essay, How to Narrate Your Life Story, on one of my favourite sites, The Book of Life, which has a large collection of essays reflecting all aspects of life and living. It was timely as I have been reflecting, as we always do, but I guess more so these days because of ongoing transitions and approaching a big rollover of the life odometer. (This has just been put out as a short video too).

I like this quote from the essay, which sums up how I am beginning to come to terms with my own story:

“Good – by which is meant fair-minded and judicious – narrators know that lives can be meaningful even when they involve a lot of failure and humiliation. Mistakes do not have to be absurd; they can be signs of how little information we have on which to base the most consequential decisions. Messing up isn’t a sign of evil; it’s evidence of what we’re up against.”  

This summer marks my last year of the sixties. I turned 69 last mid-summer and will leave it behind soon. It is funny how numbers seem to come up and reverberate.

1969 was when I graduated from university and got my first real job. I worked in a Botany research lab at UBC. That was the start of many years working as a research tech in various places. The first is a photo my Mum took of me around that time. Those were the days of mini skirts, so she only took the photo to the edge of my dress. She always warned me to be careful getting on and off the bus.  The other is of me in the lab about the same time. I look at these photos in a state of wonder sometimes, because I don’t really recognize me. I guess most of us have an image of ourselves, and it either does or doesn’t match what one actually sees. The third one is from last fall, at 69.

me 1968 sm


1970 lab photo.jpg

Lab tech UBC

me sept 2016.jpg

at 69

1969 was the ending of a decade that had seen so many changes. I came across an old newspaper special section that I had kept, from the Vancouver Sun of December 1969. The front page was all illustrations from the decade. And what a decade:

sun 1969 front whole.jpg

Music – the Beatles, British invasion, summer of 69, Trudeau (the elder), the Kennedy’s, Martin Luther King, Churchill, Vietnam, computers, moon landing, Bay of Pigs, ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’, San Francisco. Exhilarating and confusing times.

Looking to those days, which seem now pretty innocent compared to current times, I think of choices made or not made and wonder. The old quote probably all of us can identify with – if I only knew then what I know now. I’d also modify that a bit – if we only knew then, what we know now about how our brains work, about mental health, about human development, about brain plasticity. But from the quote above, “Mistakes do not have to be absurd; they can be signs of how little information we have on which to base the most consequential decisions.”

I read in the paper this morning that Richard Ford, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, has written a book called “Between Them: Remembering my Parents”. In the interview about the book he said that even at 74, he still misses his parents. This struck a chord, as I also miss my parents. Interestingly, another one of those number reverberations became apparent when I read about this. I was about 35 years old when they died, about 35 years ago.

I have been thinking about them quite a lot over the past couple of years because of a number of personal and mental health reasons. I have often thought how I would like to have been able to talk to them now.

One of the most important discoveries I have come across about human development and relations has been the work around Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). This began as a study in the mid 1990s, and has only fairly recently come into general public knowledge and use. A couple of years ago, a book by Donna Jackson Nakazawa called ‘Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal”, was recommended to me. You know when you have one of those ‘aha’ moments? Well, it was more than that. After spending decades trying to find answers to questions I had about myself, this book finally provided the most relatable and significant ones. It has been like a key finally unlocking a black box.

Over the past while, I have had the opportunity to do more reading, to talk with family members, to think and reflect, and to begin to do meditation (Headspace – it is excellent and has helped a great deal), to start to sort out my mind and put things in perspective. I have come to realize how difficult the lives of my parents and grandparents were, affected by the wars and all the upheaval of the times. Wounded as they were, both physically and mentally, they did the best they knew how to live their lives and work hard for their families.

I am grateful now that I have lived to the point where I am. Both my parents died in their early 60s, so I have outlived them both. One never knows how many days one will get, so I have come to appreciate each one that I have.

So ~ “It does not need to be a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing. It can be a tale told by a kind, intelligent soul signifying rather a lot: like almost every life story, it is in truth a tale of a well-intentioned, flawed, partially blind, self-deceived but ultimately dignified and good human struggling against enormous odds and, sometimes, on a good day, succeeding just a little in a few areas.” (Book of Life)


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