One Bite Took Me Back In Time

In Psychology class in college, we had an entire unit on how certain smells can bring back memories. This happens to me all the time. What they really neglected to touch on is how your sense of taste can do the same thing!

Remember that scene in Ratatouille when the young chef brings food critic, Anton Ego, ratatouille? His coworker, his former boss, and even Mr. Ego cannot believe that this was the dish he chose to serve him. With one bite of the dish – Ego is immediately taken back to his childhood and is eating that very dish served to him by his mother. It is one of y favorite scenes in the movie.

I have certainly had this happen to me, but never with such a simple dish. I have had meatballs that taste like my grandma used to make. I have had breaded steak which tastes like grandma’s. I have had tuna noodle casserole that tasted just like my mom used to make. Today, it was something that I have certainly had more than once in the last year, and never had this happen. Today, while Ella napped, I made a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I was hungry and wasn’t really sure what to make. Sam had the peanut butter out on the counter, so I decided a PB&J would hit the spot. I threw it together and grabbed a glass of milk. I sat out on the couch and took a bite. With that bite, I was immediately 11 years old. I am home on a summer day in the back yard. Things I had forgotten about, are suddenly very vivid.

I was sitting out on our back patio at a round table with a glass top. The umbrella has a burn mark in it from when my brother set it on fire with a sparkler. In front of me is the brick barbeque that the previous owner built, but we only used it for the first few years we were in the house. It had a huge metal square lid that covered the grill. In back of me is the sliding patio door, where my mom stood and handed me my sandwich, chips, and glass of milk. In the middle of the yard is a swing set. There were two swings, a bar, and a set of rings (which I used to be able to do flips on). In one corner of the yard was a beat up dog house from the previous owner and in the other a garden.

I remember so many summer days sitting out there and eating lunch. The funny thing is, I mostly remember eating bologna and cheese sandwiches out there. Why a PB&J brought this memory back so vividly, I’m not sure.

When I was in elementary school, kids could walk home and eat lunch and walk back to school. I remember doing this on occasion. I want to say that the distance from my house to the school was like 5-7 blocks. I liked being home, but I remember you literally had to sit down, wolf down your sandwich, and get back to walking or you’d be late. In today’s society, I can’t imagine letting my kids walk that!

Today, the table, umbrella, doghouse, swing set, garden, and my mom are all gone. I think the barbeque is still there, I could be wrong. It was nice to think back on those days today.

Fear and the Inner Child

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H. P. Lovecraft

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I think every one has fears.  We all fear different things.  Growing up, I was afraid of the dark, afraid of heights, afraid of bees, and many other things.  As we get closer to having our daughter, I have fears, too.  I am afraid I will pass out when she is born.  I am afraid I won’t be a good enough support for Sam while she is in labor.  I’ve never raised a girl before, so there is an entire list of fears that go with that!  Many fears are more worries, “what ifs”, or fears brought about by thinking of alternative possible outcomes.

Recently, in therapy, we have reached a place where I am about to face the fear of the unknown.  Let me explain.

While discussing the Christmas holiday, and the memories that go along with it, the subject of nostalgia came up.  My therapist said that it is obvious that I am a nostalgic person.  I talk about the past a lot.  I experience a lot emotions in going through old pictures, remembering the past, and remembering people who have passed away.  My therapist began to ask about my childhood, which led to an exercise that was very difficult and uncomfortable for me.

I was to pick an event where I recalled a big change in my life.  The event I chose was when I got glasses in fourth grade.  We walked through an exercise where I had to put myself back in fourth grade and remember what I was feeling.  I have to admit, it was difficult.  She asked what I was feeling.  She asked about school.  “What was that fourth grader experiencing at home during this time?”  “How was he treated at school by classmates?” She asked me many things, and it took quite a bit to actually remember those things.  There were many questions I could not answer, but there were a whole lot of emotions that were revisited as well.  I’ve been in therapy for a lot of my lifetime, and I’ve never experienced anything like this!

One thing the therapist said was that sometimes, as an adult, we look back at pictures or memories and remember them in a way that brings us happiness.  We have this ability as adults to block out some of the things that were actually going on at that time in our life and with time, we push those things away, and remember the good.  Is this what I have done?

My homework was to find a picture from my childhood.  I was to look at it and try to remember every possible thing about it.  What might be going on in the next room?  What did the house smell like?  What might I have for homework?  What books was I reading? Things like that.  We will talk about this at my next session.

Why all this reflection on my childhood?  It all has to do with the “inner child”.  I have heard this phrase tossed around for sometime on the radio and on TV, but never really understood what it all meant.  I know a little bit more now that we’ve talked about it.  Basically, each of us has a part of us that feels and reacts to life the way a child does.  Everyone experiences this.  The challenge is to connect with that part of your personality as well as know it and accept it.

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The inner child is not a concept or theory of psychology.  It is part of who we are as a person.  The things that happen to us as a child can affect us and the way we react to things as an adult.  There are many things that can cause the inner child to “hurt” – divorce, bullying, a traumatic event, severe illness, being isolated from family, forms of abuse and neglect, and many other things.  These things can affect your behaviors as an adult.

Many adults are “damaged” and have a “wounded” inner child.  In many cases, you can’t “fix” it, but having knowledge of what things cause the hurt, can actually help you to “heal” the inner child and help change the way you react to things, and actually help end some of the internal suffering that we have.  The idea is that by examining the inner child, identifying the hurt, and addressing it, we can ultimately change the way we think, feel and behave.

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This is a whole new thing for me. I’ve made many positive changes in my life over the past few years, and this is unchartered territory. It’s scary to think about what I may stumble on.  I may need to revisit old wounds.  I may have to revisit emotions and feelings that I have purposely “forgotten”.  It’s a scary thing – it’s the unknown.  I don’t know what to expect.  I don’t know what I am going to feel.  But, if examining these things will help me as an adult, then I am ready to face the unknown and conquer it!