Wouldn't we all just love to leave the past behind? Especially all those painful and uncomfortable memories. I have been working very hard at that through therapy, reading books and poetry, and even in writing this blog. Getting to know myself in order to lay down the burdens of the past, and walk ahead into the light free and clear. What a mission! What a goal! People write about it everywhere – sing songs and wax lyric on and on. Being in the moment – here and now, not looking back or thinking forward. Ah yes. Noble ideas indeed. Freedom from pain and discomfort seems like the loftiest, most rational goal of all. Facebook is packed with slogans that invite and encourage us to do just that – leave the past behind.
Lately, though, I realize how futile this struggle to free myself from the past is becoming. Indeed, I think it is impossible. Unrealistic. An illusion that gives me hope and comfort thinking that it is a possibility at all. For, the more I understand how our brain functions, and how, as very young children, we store our earliest emotional memories never to be erased – I realize that leaving the past behind is impossible.
Repressed and buried emotional pieces – traumatic or otherwise – will forever rise up at the oddest moments when we least expect them, and interfere with present situations. The trick is in recognizing and welcoming them when they occur. Understanding they are forever part of who I am, and who I have become, I might greet them and, if I am able, make peace with them. Indeed, integrating and accepting them as part of me makes me the complex human being I am. Negotiating with those memories I learn when they are helpful warnings, or if they block me from opening up. I realize I don't have to forgive everything, nor should I forget some things. I have a choice if only I allow myself to accept that the past is always a part of me.
I always thought there was something lacking in me because I seemed unable to forgive and forget all, and just let go of the past. I worked so hard to achieve the impossible, and then reinforced the feeling of failure over and over again.
As I start to release myself from these illusions, I am able to accept myself as being a human being like everyone else – eternally struggling to be free, when, instead, we could be facing and integrating our shadows into who we are forever.
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Coming of age