(Written March 2022)
Battling The Past
I have been battling with the past these last 2 months. I am observing how my present life gifts many moments of beauty, hope, and meaning to my heart. Yet, the past always finds a way to rip those feelings from me as they bloom. It also tries to destroy any buds of hope in me for a different/better future. The future will be like the past it says.
It’s as if the present moment is a place merely to grieve about the past, and to ruminate on “why it was that way” and “how it could have been” or “should have been different”, and how “much better my life would be if X had or hadn’t happened”.
Over the past 2 months I finally got to a point where I just wanted to “cut the past off of me”. I wanted to be left alone in the present with my 2 kids and hopefully a lifetime before me. I wanted EVERYTHING from before to be disconnected from. Just to be ME, as if born at 30.
The Past In the Makeup Aisle
I had been noticing a curiosity in myself towards giving makeup a try.
My mother never liked makeup, doing her hair, or dresses. She seems to have a personal rift with the color pink. She isn’t a feminine person. She just “never understood why anyone would like all that” – and that “anyone” included me. Like most things in her life “her preferences” were the “right answers” for everyone. I guess I believed her, or whether or not I did was irrelevant. I was offered almost no guidance in anything related to personal care or beauty as a woman.
However since this inner curiosity in trying makeup kept coming up over the last couple months, I recognized I should give makeup a try. My inner child was expressing a clear interest. So, I watched a few youtube videos. And the next morning, after dropping my kids off at preschool, I headed to the store to find some supplies.
What I found were dozens and dozens of options within options. What brand, what color, what texture, what thickness. Would I need a brush to apply that? Which one? Could I just wear mascara without eye liner? Is the weird? I had done research, but had mainly focused on brand names and of course none of them were at the store.
As I went down the 2 or 3 aisles, I became more and more overwhelmed. Here I was a 30 year old woman wandering the makeup section clueless like a 12 year old girl. “How embarrassing” “How pathetic” an inner voice said within.
And as I continued down the aisles I noticed a mother shopping for makeup with her little girl in the cart. The mother’s hair was up in the tight bun I still can’t manage to do. Seeing them brought up a sort of lonely pain. That at the end of the day here I was alone in this, like I usually am with life events. I was a 12 year old girl in a 30 year old women’s body, who still no one showed up for. Seeing that little girl and mother also brought the thought “What a resource I’ll be for my little girl!”.
I picked up a few things I thought might work, and called it a sucess. However the makeup trip, which was suppose to be a new and exciting kindness towards myself, ended up with me leaving me with a heaviness in my heart. It didn’t feel healing, it felt painful.
The Past Wanting to Show Me How Things Could Have Been
Another way the past likes to show up to me is in bringing my attention to “how things could have been so different if…..”. It’s as if my brain seems to think the solution to today’s struggles or tomorrow’s possible struggles lies in the past. My mind constantly pulls me out of the present to “reflect and learn” from the past…over and over again.
“If only you had only recognized the mental health issues in your family earlier…things would be so different”
“If only you had expressed your needs more clearly when you became a mother..you would have received help”
“You were closed off emotionally in highschool and college…if only you hadn’t been life would have been and would be so different.”
“If only you had communicated more calmly to your best friend….you and her could have weathered the storm and remained close all these years”
“If only you had read the Bible earlier…”
If only…If only…If only…
But, is this constant turning necessary? Are the present and future so hopeless that my time is best spent reflecting on “what went wrong”? As if I somehow “lost” this game of life, and I’m in a mad dash to figure out why before I play “life” again. In my depressed moods, that’s pretty much exactly how I feel. However, a more logical side of me KNOWS my life is actually much better than it was a few years ago. TODAY I am blessed with 2 beautiful children, I am building a circle around me of kind and loving people, and I am becoming a more kind and loving person to myself and others.
But in some nonsensical way, my past is usually tight around my neck. It’s as if I am taking my last breaths, and desperately wondering “what went wrong, what went wrong!”.
These were the months of a growing frustration and desire to cut the past off of me/ or out of me.
I felt the past was the problem. It offered me nothing but pain. I was over it. I wanted to erase it.
I communicated this feeling to my husband. And as I listened to myself share these feelings with him I observed something interesting. It was certain events about the past that I seemed intensely focused on erasing. And it wasn’t just all the “big negative events”. Rather it was events I still felt strong emotional about, whether they were seemingly “big events” or not. It was the existence of these strong emotions inside of me which allowed certain memories of my past to jump into the present and color both my present and future outlook. I realized it wasn’t past events in themselves I wanted to erase, but rather my still living strong emotions towards them.
And by this point in my journey I KNOW emotions can not be erased. Even the sentence hits as cruel. Emotions, as strange as it is to say, are people. They need to be heard and they need to be accepted. And they may need help.
Still though I KNOW this, I struggle to live this. I observe over and over how I go to my emotions with anger and frustration. And when I battle them, no resolution is ever found. When I ignore them (or run from them), I’m merely deluding myself. They are still right there, everyday with me. Effecting me.
So, I guess I know what I must do. In order to lay these past emotions down, I must stay right here with them in the present. Even in their intensity, I must stay. And if I do, more and more of my past will lay down peacefully.
This will not be an easy process for me. It will take honesty, vulnerability, courage, determination, faith and time. The areas of my mind where intense emotions lie, is a laregly wordless space. A shaky place, a loud space, a timeless space, a confusing space.
But parts of me are stuck there, and I can not live fully until I have found and accepted and heard all the parts of me.
*** The past also intrudes on my present in a more beautiful way (though it contains unsettling elements). This way involves having memories of life before this life. Of a mother who is not my Earthly one. It didn’t quite fit with this post, so I didn’t include it. One day I’d like to write about it though. ***
– March 2022