I was back home in India for a few months. As is to be expected, the longer visit allowed for more quality time with loved ones and the long absence that preceded it made me more aware of their impact.
People often brought up something I said or did as a child, a teenager, or even on a prior visit. Frequent interactions like these and it started to feel like my actions had turned into memory confetti, spread out in the minds of my loved ones. And when they reflected back, I received a piece that I could recombine with my pieces to get a glimpse of who I was at a certain point in my life. I was especially taken aback when I remembered little and they remembered much. I saw this old me, sometimes with surprise and at others with delight. Still similar in some aspects and changed in others.
For instance, I had little memory of writing letters to a dear cousin as a teenager and was touched that she saved them all. I’m still that person. I still write cards and save the meaningful notes written for me. Another cousin remembered a long-forgotten teenage crush in much detail; I’ve moved on from that one (Ha!). I also noted how much my moods and moments impacted others, whether it was humor, angst or anger.
Our daily attention is mostly tied to lining up the wobbly set of resources we’re given into a life path. As we blaze through that path, we embed memories in each other through interactions. The closer we are, the more those memories are cherished and when we circle back to these beloved humans, we see ourselves more fully. We add back long-forgotten details to our psyche, color to our life, and meaning to our path. If we never circle back to those we’ve walked the path with, we forget big and important pieces of ourselves.
The African philosophy of Ubuntu is summarized as “I am because you are” and I felt the full force of this wisdom surrounded by the many who shaped and continue to shape me.
“Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.”
― “So Much Happiness” by Naomi Shihab Nye: poet, editor, songwriter, and novelist