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Your Body Remembers What Your Mind Cannot

When I try to recall what my first memories were, I get quick uneven snapshots in my mind, nothing neatly laid out or in any recognizable order.  Although I remember a few things before kindergarten (like the shapes my father used to mow in the grass for us or an old organ my great-grandmother let me play as a two-year-old), I’m fuzzy on the details of my first day at kindergarten.  I know what I was wearing, only because there’s a picture of me, smiling widely for the camera, so proud of my white, patent leather, knee-high boots.

So, I ask myself this about our four-year-old Liliana.  What exactly will she remember of all these glorious, exploring days?  Will she remember the plays and movies we took her to?  The hikes through our woods—in all seasons?  The bones…the fossils we found? Her first experiences with different kinds of food—seafood, sushi, escargot, tacos, naan, thai noodles?  Will she recall snuggling in bed with us each morning, her gut-laughter filling our room?  Will she remember all the books we’ve read, the stories we’ve told, the dances we’ve danced?

Probably not, is my sad realization.  At least at this point in her life.

But her body will.  What I mean by this is that we’re filling up her love bank.  Every loving moment we spend together tells her we adore her, we believe in her, we are for her.  Every promise we keep tells her we’re trustworthy.  Every time we listen to her and validate what she’s saying, we tell her that what she has to say is important and worthwhile.  Each time we ask her to stop and think about what to do next, we’re telling her she’s capable of handling what life will throw her way.

All this to say: her mind might not recall details, but her body will.

Case in point.  Have you ever been in a room, and in walks a certain person.  You’re friendly with them, they with you, but your body is telling you otherwise.  You’ve been betrayed by this person before—perhaps she’s lied to you or gossiped behind your back.  Maybe you’ve been emotionally abused by this person.  Whatever the case, your body is telling you the truth.  Your mind is trying to tamp down these feelings, to save face.  This is especially true in women (and yes, I can say this because I am one!).  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s our need to please, to be nice (we call it Minnesota-Nice here!).  The fact is: our bodies know.

In the same way, I think Liliana will know that we loved her, that we surrounded her with opportunity, that we dreamed the world for her.

This thought can be paralyzing, in the sense that you know your child is chalking up memories as we speak, but it can also be freeing.  Take one step at a time.  What can I do right now, in this moment, to let my child know I care?  If you’re too tired to care, consider saying, “Mom’s a little tired right now.  Do you mind if I set this timer for 10 minutes, just so I can rest my brain?  As soon as it goes off, I’m all yours.”  This allows her to see that you need something, too.  [Later in life, she’ll translate this, hopefully, into giving herself some valuable time and not giving it all away to others.]

This reminds me there are so many fine things to teach about love—loving oneself and others—and how big a task it really is.

You know what I’m going to say next, right?  Ready for it?

Baby steps.  Yep, that’s right.  Baby steps.  Focus on what’s right in front of you and take it from there.  If you mess up, take a deep breath, and take the next step.  See?  You can always start over!

That’s the beauty of true love.

[Post image: Dan and Liliana riding the carousel in Paris, January 2011]

5 Comments


  1. Don Rogers
    Apr 28, 2011

    You are a good and wise Mother. Oh, to have my adult sons as little children again……


    • Elissa
      Apr 28, 2011

      But you have them now…and they aren’t so old that they don’t need their father’s love and wisdom! 🙂


  2. Sylvia
    Apr 28, 2011

    What a beautiful family you have. They are lucky to have such a wise woman in their life.


    • Elissa
      Apr 28, 2011

      Ha! I don’t feel wise always. It’s a daily thing for me! Thanks, Sylvia!


  3. Sara
    Apr 28, 2011

    Fun post to read. Thanks, Elissa!

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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