You don’t need to get very occult to understand why certain situations or experiences repeat throughout our lives.
It’s simple, clumsy psychology.
We spent the weekend in the South West so we could go to the Bath Christmas Markets, something we did in 2008 within a few months of arriving in the UK.
Because I am the High Priestess of Organisationalia among my group of friends (shocking, I know), it was down to me to handle all the logistics.
People I hadn’t seen in months were part of the group. And here’s another unsurprising factoid which you may find familiar in your own lives, I am also the High Priestess of Amateur Free Therapy among my group of friends. (Historically, wizards were professional advice givers. People pick up on that.)
One of my closest friends -one I hadn’t seen in months- has basically been dating the same man over and over for ten years. And that man is her dad. Now, obviously not every child of divorce is behaviourally impacted by it… But some of them are. Which is why this particular friend only likes men she can’t have; men who leave, men she suddenly falls in love with once they are off the market, men who have a built-in sense of distance that forces her to visibly compete for their affection. (My father said once, quoting God-knows-who: “our parents don’t teach us who to love, but how.”)
My friend is largely aware of this. When I suggest that she needs to break the pattern by telling the current apple of her eye -who is in a relationship and works with her- she fires back with “blah blah lose the great friendship blah blah”.
But the thing is, it’s not a great friendship. It’s extremely painful for her because this guy will tell her all about his sex weekends with his new girlfriend as he thinks they have that kind of friendship. Can’t blame the guy; my friend hasn’t given him any indication to the contrary. He’s just doing what good friends do.
So, with a little prodding, I got her to admit something she already knew: the long term psychological benefits of telling him that she can’t really hear about the sex weekends because she has developed feelings for him vastly outweigh the short term pain. And besides, my friend is hot and funny and… well… how else do you find out where you stand?
If you don’t fix it, you repeat it. Hence why abused kids are statistically more likely to end up in abusive relationships as adults. Wiring is wiring unless you’re willing to be your own electrician.
It’s not just the people you are attracted to you, your life repeats because you seek the same experiences. You go to similar restaurants, you buy similar clothes, you befriend similar friends, you vacation similar places. And it’s only when you’re mid-experience that you realise just how familiar everything is.
Not all reboots have to be “negative”, of course.
Our first trip to the Bath Christmas Market was just after we had been washed ashore, half drowned, by the Lehmann-induced global super storm of late 2008.
We had lost everything.
I had JUST struggled across the finish line of decent employment with about thirty New Zealand dollars left to our name and -horror of horrors- several grand in debt to my parents at age 27.
(Attention nerds! For a variety of NZ-related reasons, I frequently use Sauron metaphors when talking about my life and refer to this period as my “Mirkwood Necromancer” phase. It’s taken two and a half years but the tower is almost completely rebuilt… Now I just need to find that ring.) So we had no money. Our dinner budget was £2 per head for my partner and I in those days.
It’s such a silly thing but at that market two years ago I saw a map.
There was nothing special about it. The map was well printed but that was it. It was a map of the British Isles that had all the different counties outlined. Here I was, finally living where my ancestors had lived for at least a thousand years. I wanted to know about this place.
Antipodeans tend to spend two years drunk in London while using up all their weekends going to cities in Europe they can get to on low cost airlines. But we had emigrated. I humbly wanted to learn and discover all I could about my new/ancestral home. Standing in that market, having just finished my first week of work in about five months, lit by Christmas lights, this gleaming paper rectangle seemed to sum up all of that.
A map is a powerful political symbol. You can adjust the size of places by arbitrarily deciding somewhere is more important than somewhere else, you can omit people or places from maps. The map you choose says a lot about you.
This one was £15. That was a week of dinner. I didn’t buy it. I couldn’t buy it.
My partner really wanted it as well and that just broke my heart into a million little county maps of its own. I took one of the leaflets and, almost visibly upset, left the stall with a vague promise to buy him one online sometime in the new year, maybe.
The next trip to the Bath Christmas Market -this trip- was substantially different. It’s not that surprising given that the city is a World Heritage Area, but Bath doesn’t change very much. The market was exactly the same.
Or so I thought. The hilarious Frenchman selling the most incredible French mulled cider was nowhere to be seen. A number of the stalls were different. But otherwise, exactly the same.
Except this time, we travelled from London in First Class, rented a two bedroom apartment by the canal in Bristol, went out for dinner without looking at the prices and took photos with a digital SLR rather than a three-year-old point and shoot.
And then I turned a corner and saw him. The map guy.
One of our key advantages, being magical folk, is an acute understanding of when something is initiatory. When something is -with a capital letter- Significant.
It didn’t escape my attention that this whole weekend was a reboot, an opportunity to do something again but do it better. I wanted this exact experience two years ago but this time I had somehow earned it. Here was an opportunity to rewrite something that -although it was fun last time- was still hurtful, was still a symbol of personal shortcoming rather than celebration. (For some reason, Bristol has been a psychotherapeutic theatre for me since we arrived in the country. One day I’ll work out why.)
There were a few changes to map guy’s range this year. He was selling an enormous and frankly stunning map of Central(ish) London, completely with the all the new Boris Bike depositories -and they’ve only been around for a couple of months. My partner asked if I’d like one of them.
“No thank you.” I knew just what I wanted.
We don’t do Thanksgiving this weekend in the UK, obviously. Doesn’t mean I’m not extremely thankful for the reboot.
And for the map.