On Saint Patrick’s Day, an accordion player roamed the halls of the nursing home where my mother is temporarily ensconced. As the accordion music swelled in the hallway, tears welled in my mom’s eyes and she began to cry. When I asked her why – she wasn’t sure, but she said she always loved the accordion. I had no idea. She was equally surprised. But, now, while she’s fighting one of the hardest battles of her life, she needed this sound – this feeling.
The evocative nature of the accordion squeezed emotions out of her she had packed away for years as she lived her busy life. Like the accordion, each chamber of our life gets filled, one after another. In order to get the air out of the original chamber, to hear that first note, the last one filled has to be emptied.
It’s akin to unpacking a set of Russian nesting dolls. Our lives become a series of boxes within boxes. We keep the whole set on a shelf, and don’t consider opening the biggest box, or breaking apart the largest doll. We may not ever have the need to get to the heart of the matter – the innermost box – the smallest doll. So, they sit, on high shelves, temporarily out of reach and gathering dust.
Occasionally we glance at them, clean them up, but still do not open them – even after decades. Yet, we are too afraid to toss them out because we know they contain things we still want, wish we hadn’t packed away and perhaps even ache for daily; but we can’t fit into our life at the moment. To make room for them, we’d have to box up something else. So the boxes stay on the shelf.
The truth is - we know if we start unpacking, working our way to the smallest box, it contains the one thing, or love, or dream that has the power to unravel us. It is the thing we’ve made as small as possible, so that it fits in the box within the boxes; precisely so it remains safely stashed.
Then, one day, we get squeezed – hard, and we suddenly know we never should’ve put those boxes so far out of reach. And we move toward the shelf, reach up, open up and begin the unraveling.