It was a wonderful weekend. Although we both approached it with some trepidation, we also ventured into this reunion with joyful anticipation and excited curiosity to see who we both are now. I believe that I turned out to be the lucky one, as moment by moment and discussion by discussion, I discovered the beautiful, generous-hearted, loving-spirit woman my niece has become.
I was continuously awed by the depth of perception, wisdom and generosity of spirit that kept shining through in my niece’s animated descriptions of her university course (journalism), of the various charitable agencies that she is able to help through the skills she has been learning in her course (eg, writing up funding grant applications), and her hopes and dreams for her future (all of which involve non-profit and charitable works). Her joy was infectious, her faith profound and her vision of life hope-inspiring. There were many times through the weekend when I felt like I was in the presence of another Mother Theresa, and I’m excited to watch how this beautiful woman continues to unfold and blossom.
In the midst of all of this profound enjoyment of spending time with her (and feeling so enriched and blessed by her presence and grace), I also, unexpectedly, caught glimpses and flashbacks of a me I’ve long forgotten existed. Because so much of my own life has been steeped in loneliness, depression and lostness (seemingly endless and aimless drifting with no sense whatsoever of who I was or what I wanted to – or could – do), I’ve been rather harsh in my backward glances, and tend more to keep the doors closed so as to focus on my much more positive here-and-now.
So it was an odd experience finding myself in places and conversations that evoked memories and flashbacks into old familiar places…her hopes, dreams and visions were echoes of my own ancient-and-long-abandoned hopes, dreams and visions from my hippie (back then we used the word “bohemian”). Browsing through market kiosks overflowing with colourful sarongs and funky jewellery transported me back to the days when I couldn’t get enough of that sort of environment – incense and all…and also transported me back to my own student days when I was too impoverished to do more than look and browse. (It was impossible to resist spoiling her a bit!). And out of all the kiosks and flowing skirts that we browsed through, I think it’s safe to say that for both of us, the most exciting buy of the day was the 14-year-old cheddar cheese! I didn’t even know such a thing existed! That may well go down as a highlight of the entire summer!)
The weekend was hectic, jam-packed with colours and sights and soul-deep conversations during our endless walks through exciting bustling city streets – and for me, it ended up including pleasant browsing and interesting excursions through long-forgotten memories and ancient dreams. I fell madly in love with my niece; I also discovered a grudging affection for the young woman I had been when I was her age.
Rediscovering my old bohemian flare and, well, liking what I saw back there, was unexpected and perhaps even healing to some extent. It might be the first time I’ve ever looked back with a positive perspective instead of my normal critical analysis of all the failure and lostness of life in-between then and now. This weekend, I remembered that young girl, I remembered her passion for helping the needy and poor, I remembered her yearning hopes of someday changing the world, and I remembered her dreams of shining God’s love everywhere she went. And I realize now that those were not mere whimsical dreams to be so quickly abandoned with such harsh dismissal on my current self’s part…I have to hope and pray that those are all still a part of who I am, because they WERE beautiful and generous of spirit…the same qualities I now admire in my niece who awes and inspires me. Two bright shining pockets of light…separated by a few years apart – and by my many miles spent mired in the muck of a dark and difficult road. But after a weekend spent showering beneath the cleansing waters of her young grace and God’s ageless love, I can see now that the bright shining pocket of light I thought had long been extinguished has in fact endured and begun to flicker again.
I’m so grateful for the chance to rediscover the profound beauty of my niece this weekend…I’m also grateful that in discovering her, my eyes have been opened to acknowledge the beauty of my own younger self, who was once as deeply rooted in love and light and hopes and dreams and passion…and I’m grateful to realize that those are all not only still a part of me, they might well be the best parts of me, not to be abandoned or dismissed because of the muck they’ve had to journey through, but to be re-nurtured and re-shaped to bring wiser love & light, refreshed hopes & dreams and rekindled passion to the front burners of my life here and now.
Yes, it was a wonder-full weekend.