tripIt had been years since I had been to my hometown, Berkeley, California where I grew up.  I decided it was time to revisit.

My husband and I set off for a three week road trip in our car packed with CD’s, picnic goodies, and a rough idea of what, where and who to visit.  We had several dates set up with friends and family. In Ashland we saw two plays.  Further down the road we spend the night with old friends in Mt. Shasta who I hadn’t seen in years.

Berkeley was next. I was excited and anxious at the same time.  What would people think about me after all these years, what would I think of them. Where would I fit in?  I’ve certainly aged, you know. Crossing the border from Oregon to California, I became acutely aware of the brown hills, oak trees and eucalyptus.  My senses were stimulated with smells and sights, which were so familiar.   The emotional buttons of my childhood and youth were definitely being activated.

You see, I was the younger of two daughters in my family.  My sister was the favored one.  Sally was smart, quick, athletic, and she and my parents were a threesome.  I came along three years later. My parents were hoping for a son.  I was born premature, wrong sex, slow to learn, and awkward. I had a hard time finding a place in my family. That’s my story anyway.

Of course I’ve grown up since then.  I’ve visited, revisited and changed my story a million times.  But a story is a story, and it has staying power.  Certainly going back home activates the childhood story and feelings.

While I was in Berkeley on this trip, I had the opportunity to visit my old house where I grew up.  I was shocked to see how poorly maintained it was.  I rang the doorbell and a very nice lady let me in to have a look. Surprisingly it was basically the same as I left it.  I saw my old bedroom, the kitchen and dining room where everything happened.  Yes, my old feelings came back a bit – small and weak, fearful, and lonely. But this time it was different.  Curiously I was able to understand and rise above those old and tired feelings that don’t apply today. I’ve done my work through the years to understand myself – past and present and to appreciate the strength I gained from growing up in my family of origin.

My sister and I spent two days together reminiscing and playing the “Do you remember game?”  It’s not surprising that her memories are different from mine. We both however share some warm memories…like the summer vacations at my grandmother’s mountain lake, listening to the radio and watching TV together, laughing at inside jokes, etc.  Rather than dwelling on the bad feelings of the past, I’m eternally grateful for overcoming my challenges, creating my own journey and moving on.

When was the last time you visited your family of origin, either in real life or in imagination?  Are you able to claim the good parts and move on from the not so good ones?

Feel free to create your own journey whether it’s a couple, stepcouple, stepfamily or any other relationship…free from negative influences from the past.

Happy Fourth of July!

Susan Wisdom,LPC
July, 2009

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