What We Avoid.

Posted On: 05.29.12

We avoid things. All of us. We avoid people and places, parts of our pasts, parts of our presents. We avoid aspects of life and aspects of self. I’m beginning to think that this is a big piece of adulthood. Avoidance.


See the house above? I’ve been avoiding it. It was my Country House growing up, tucked in a beautiful spot in the Berkshires, and I spent almost every weekend of my childhood there. Many of my memories of being a kid are tied up in this place.

Until this weekend, it had been four years. Four years. Four years of excuses. Four years of not knowing, of not going. We are busy, so busy, I said to Mom, to Husband. To myself.

Truth is I was afraid. Afraid of what going might make me feel, of the images that would alight, of the emotions that would settle. Afraid that I would miss Dad, and think of that last weekend, that Easter Sunday when he didn’t feel good, when he wouldn’t eat the ham.

But we went. We packed the car with six human creatures and two canine ones, and oodles of baggage and gear and we drove. And when we pulled up, Mom said what she said every Friday night of my youth: Whose barn is this? She said this and I smiled. It’s mine, I thought, my mind dancing back.

I looked around. At the big field where I used to run with my sisters and my dogs. At the grass that has continued to grow. The sky. The same sky.

And we went to the park nearby. Where we used to swing, pumping legs and flying high. And I stood back and watched them, my man and my girls. A familiar scene. New characters.

I was particularly focused on my littlest. In her little white dress. With her sweaty flip of blond hair, her bright yellow shoes. I wondered what she saw, and felt, as she swung forward and back.

We walked up to the falls. And the baby and I perched on a rock and watched Daddy with the big girls. They took turns wading in, the water crashing down. Like I used to do.

I held her and we watched. I wanted to tell her things – about how that used to be me, frolicking, fighting the current, soaking up sun. Being young.

We had lunch at one of the picnic tables. Turkey slices and Smart Puffs. Standard fare.

And I sat there at the wooden table with my crew in the almost-summer sun and I realized something: I was, am, happy. Not simple Hallmark happy. No, weighty and complex and real happy. I sat there and it felt good. It felt good to be there, to be back, to be facing, to be feeling. It felt good not to be avoiding.

And then we came back here. To the city, to the sidewalks. We went for an early bite at one of our favorite neighborhood places and then we made our way home. Little Girl has been walking for a while now, but this was the first time we placed her down and said it: Go.

And she did. She stumbled along between her big sisters. And we followed. We watched.

And I can’t explain it but all of this felt different – this walking, this witnessing, this wrestling – because it came on the heels of something important. A step. My affection for them as I watched them on the streets I used to walk when I was a little girl was particularly fierce maybe because I had surrendered some, and I was letting myself feel it, that deep, saturating swirl of memory, people, place, of time. And it was exhausting, this waterfall of awareness, but it was also exhilarating, and downright exquisite.

Going back. Going forward.

Avoiding. Embracing.

All of these things are part of the game.

And this game? It’s a profound honor.


Thrilled to be linking up again this week with some lovely other writers at Just Write and Yeah Write. If you are looking to find some great new blogs, or to expand your blogging community, I encourage you to click over to both sites!


Your turn. What are you avoiding?

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41 Comments for: "What We Avoid."
  1. Sounds like a weekend rich with memory and, also, of an awareness of how now and then overlap and enrich each other. xox

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      The overlap of Now and Then. Yes. That’s what these words are all about, and many of my words, I am realizing. And When. That, too.


    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Letting go. The hardest and most important thing we must do day after day, right? Thanks, Kelly.

  2. Your photos are so beautiful and a wonderful moving post. I hope after this initial return, that you will enjoy going to your Country House. It looks so beautiful it deserves company.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I do think we will go back more. The girls had an incredible time and it was really wonderful to spend time with my own Mom. There was this one moment on Sunday morning when we were all still in pajamas and Mom was reading one of my old books to the big girls… And it was magic. To see them there, huddled together, pointing at pictures, parsing words. It was a big weekend and I am still processing it, and happy to be processing it.

      Thanks, Vivian.

  3. This was so beautifully written.
    Being in the present and letting go of what was holding you back is a very liberating and healing experience.
    When my grandma passed away, I never returned to her home. I avoid it like the plague. I spent many summers there. Now it’s painful to return.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Kimberly. There is indeed something about physical places, isn’t there? It is hard to physically go back and to emotionally go back, but seeing things, items, pieces of furniture and clothing, seeing the windows we looked out, and the basketball hoop we shot at… There is another level with the physical things… I don’t pretend to know what any of this means. Alas.

  4. Beautiful photos and beautifully written. You are such a natural writer!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you so much, Amanda. It was an important weekend and I wanted to honor that. I am happy to know that I will be able to look back and see when this happened, this going back, and see the images I captured. I am realizing more and more that this is largely what this blog is about – keeping track, preserving, taking note.

  5. Beautiful, lyrical piece. I think what you described was joy. As it was explained to me, happiness is circumstantial, while joy is what you can carry in your heart even through the toughest of times, at all times. Ellen

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Joy. Yes indeed. Day after day, I am realizing, and feeling, this important (and nuanced) distinction – between happiness and joy. Happiness comes and goes, flashes in and out, but joy hangs on for the ride. It does. Thank you, Ellen, for these words.

  6. Sometimes it seems like avoiding is so much easier than letting those old feelings wash over us. I have a few places that will take time for me to visit because of the memories, but maybe I will be brave, like you, and return sometime soon.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, avoiding is much easier. Until it becomes harder, that is. At a certain point, we feel that tugging, nagging something that tells us to face. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but I’m thankful for it. Without that elusive feeling, I probably wouldn’t have gone this past weekend and I am so thankful I did. Thank you, Amber. xox

  7. Lovely perspective. So glad you confronted, not avoided.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      There is magic, albeit murky, in the confronting. I am realizing this on so many levels, in so many ways. Thank you, Alison.

  8. Gorgeous. I totally get it.
    and something mixed up in the middle stuck out to me, how it was the same sky.
    When we’re all mixed up in past and present and reaching for how to know ourselves and feel…there are constants that are like life rafts and the sky is one, no?


    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Heather. It is a wonderful compliment that this little bit popped out at you because I plucked it from my current WIP. In my story, one character is feeling impossibly lost and is forced to go home, to her childhood home, and she looks up and realizes that it is the same sky. There is a beauty in the constancy, the rafts as you say. So happy you are doing Just Write, Heather. It really has revitalized me, and my writing. Thank you. xox

  9. Lovely. Nostalgia is a powerful force. And so your girls will retain these comforting memories as well. It’s a good thing to conquer the painful memory and return to the soothing. Nicely written.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Stephanie. Nostalgia is indeed a powerful beast. One thing, one amazing thing, that struck me this weekend was that my kids, and all of us, were participating in what will become new memories, and happy ones. My girls will not see that old desk with the stack of notes and unfinished papers and get sad like I did. Rather, they will perhaps remember the endless green of the grass and the tumble of the waterfall and the “monkey bars” that hang from that old tree. Memories. They are being made now. There is something simple and incredible about this fact.

  10. good for you! so glad you are allowing yourself this. all of this.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Nic. So happy to see you here. I hope you are enjoying life with that sweet little girl of yours and her sweet big bro. This is, in some grand and elusive sense, about allowing ourselves things? To go places, tricky places, treasured places, literally and metaphorically…

  11. This? Is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing! (I popped over from the Linky on the EO. :-))

  12. wow. i really enjoyed every bit of this. so beautiful. and the photos played so nicely into it all and… just really nice. thanks for sharing.

  13. Lovely. Warm. Authentic. Well done!

  14. Aww, what a bittersweet experience. Love the pictures!

  15. I love the imagery of your words and in the photographs. Reliving your youth through the wonderous and innocent eyes of your own children is a gift we should all recognize and appreciate 🙂

  16. Beautiful. I love the way you story tell.

  17. Beautiful. It’s amazing how wonderful it is to embrace the things that we avoid. Great post. 🙂

  18. Very touching words and photographs.

  19. Such a beautifully described mixture of the tumult of feelings, and fears. An interesting thing happened as I was reading this. When I came to that picture of you facing the camera a thought went clear across my mind “She is happy.” even despite the sadness in the first paragraphs, and then in the very next lines you confirmed just that. You faced your fear and found that all your love and your beautiful life, and your love of your Dad and missing him are still there, intact, and you are ok, and I can only imagine the mix of feelings but I think it must have a lot to do with being able to have such a big piece of you back too. Thank you for sharing such an important crossing with us.

  20. These feelings you’ve put out there — they’re so beautifully stated, but more than that. It’s that hall-of-mirrors effect that hits us when we watch our kids walking in our shoes. I’m glad you were able to go back there.

    I’m glad you were able to fill it up with newness, stacked right on top of the old.

  21. Beautiful photographs and even more beautiful writing. Truly.

  22. beautiful and melancholy. amazing photos. I’m sure it was difficult to face the memories but also worthwhile to make new ones.

  23. It’s pure joy sharing our childhood with our little ones. We just want them to be part of what and who we used to be 😉

  24. so true about the avoiding! I am sorry for the loss of your dad.

  25. Beautiful. I agree we all avoid. But in time we all come around too. I think it’s a natural cycle.

  26. Pingback: What is Your Boat? | Good Life Road

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