I've had such an interesting life. It, most certainly, has never been boring. I wish now that I had taken the opportunity then to realize just how wonderful and thrilling it was while it happened, rather than from this distance. I tried to never look back, once believing that since the past is gone forever, I should just let it go. I spent almost my entire adult life trying to put my yesterdays out of mind, at least enough so that I could deal with today and not be haunted by the ghosts of regret and consequence. Instead of seeing how adventurous and fun-filled my journey has been, I pushed everything away so I did not have to deal with all the pain, suffering and guilt that came along for the ride.I think that a lot of people do the very same thing. It is not that we don't appreciate the good things, or even the lessons which come from the bad things, it's that it seems easier to get through the day without the baggage we'd have to carry if we didn't just leave it all behind. With the realization of just how heavy the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you tend to try and lighten your load. More often than not, it appears a simpler action to just abandon the past altogether.
Eventually, if you don't deal with your past, it will come back and bite you on the ass. It doesn't seem to matter how grand the walls you build to keep it out. Since everything we are comes from everywhere we have been, blocking out the way that you have travelled can be like hiding in plain sight or that tree which falls in the forest. The past is a part of the present and your road to the future. Life is a complex weave of these positive experiences and negative experiences. You cannot deny one without denying the other, nor can you embrace one without embracing the other. The past is not all black or white, it's the way you feel about it. It shifts like the sand dunes of
Whenever you run away, trying to forget your history, you forget your beautiful history too. You can tell yourself that memory doesn't hold you, but the truth is memory, the version of the past that you remember, pieces together the reasons that have made you. While not all of life's lessons are learnt by falling down hard, if we silence our past, we silence the very essence of the life we have experienced. There is so much good in the worst memory and so much more in the best memory. Embracing what has been comes with this price. You have to go through the darkness to get to the light. Instead of sitting on the roadside, waiting for a better mode of transportation, let the memories come and they will carry you away. You may find that the journey was not just trouble and strife; it was more like a joyride than an accident that already happened. With deep acceptance of yourself as you are, that road side becomes a freeway, meant for speed.
"In general people experience their present naively, as it were, without being able to form an estimate of its contents; they have first to put themselves at a distance from it - the present, that is to say, must have become the past - before it can yield points of vantage from which to judge the future." (Sigmund Freud)
When I was a boy, I was reflective and introspective, yet wild and freewheeling. I was a little shit, if the truth be told. Everything was one big adventure. I was always so carefree, even reckless, despite the world being very tough on me. I realize now that half the time it was my own fault. I'm not sure what changed as I transitioned from childhood to my youth. Looking back, I think the incident involving the steam radiator my brother Phillip carelessly left at the top of the stairs when I was 11, was my turning point. I know that as a result, I had a lot of time to sit in a hospital bed fretting on what I believed an obvious punishment from God. Many of the people who were part of my life at the time had tried to tell me this was the way things worked. I did not believe even one of them, that is, until I met the fury of cold metal and an angry GodI stopped looking at the world with wonder and started thinking about life in terms of reward and punishment. This idea built within me straight though to when my first partner died in the snows of February, when I was 29. Coupled with intense grief, I often felt as if I was under attack from above. Nothing I did seemed good enough. The only way I could deal with everything I was experiencing was to attempt shutting it all out. I didn't want to forget, and I never have, but I knew I would not survive with all the voices in my head screaming out that I deserved everything I got.
It is an odd little bird memory. It always looks the same, but every time it opens its beak the song has changed. There is a constant flux in the melody, so the way we hear it, the way it affects us time after time, is changing, adding this note and that note, as sharp or flat. It matters little how much you try to block it, or censor the tune, it is always waiting to flood back in like a symphony for the damned. Unless you find a way to listen to it unabated, it just won't shut the fuck up.
There was much distance between Doug's death and the death of my Mother. Fifteen years is a great amount of time added to anyone's life. While my thinking had changed, the man I had been was no longer, I still dealt with my history from a distance. It was never close enough to break me, yet somehow near enough to bear witness. The grief I felt when Mom died did not cripple me like it had when deliberate action took Doug. I didn't want to not feel what I was feeling. Instead of running to hide from the pain, I let it take me. I let it return full fury, and in so doing, the floodgates opened. Even though the memory of my Mother was painful, it was also comforting and gentle. I just could not find it within myself to push her away for the sake of my feelings. I needed her memory; it was all I had left. In an effort to vanquish all those years of denial and sadness, I sat down and started to write about it. Instead of closing off the highway, waiting for a clearer way, I took to the road and floored it.
After all those years of deliberate avoidance, I began to use my past as a tool rather than merely shunning it. Instead of hiding it away, and refusing to allow it purpose, I made friends with it, putting it in my pocket for easy access. Granted, the distance between then and now lessened the pain, making it easier to explore and embrace. I realized rather quickly that regardless of my attempts to control my memories, they had shaped me all along, moulding me, even though I failed to recognize it. Consciously, I traded safety for experience, fear for acceptance and anguish for resolve.
You cannot measure who you are without noting what you have known. Life is not about one thing or the other. It is the good and the bad things, the happy and the sad things, the hurt and the joy. Life is an amalgam of all these things, of everything. There is no way to propagate your way through without taking it all in and making it your own. Hindsight is not 20/20, even though we would like to think this is so. Hindsight is 50/50, it's not all or nothing, it's both. The problem with removing the past from your line of sight is that you have no reference point when examining how you got where you are. You forfeit perspective for refuge. Without the road behind you, there are no lessons to refer to, so you tend to make the same mistakes, unable to discern, over and over again. You repeatedly walk the same walk. You even talk the same talk. In an attempt to escape your suffering, you sacrifice any future joy.
"Look around me
I can see my life before me
Running rings around the way
It used to be
I am older now
I have more than what I wanted
But I wish that I had started
Long before I did
And there's so much time to make up
Everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way
So much water moving
Underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away"
(Wasted on the Way, Crosby, Stills, & Nash 1982)
I used to view the life I have lived through rose-coloured glasses. I was, for lack of a better term, joy blind. My inability to control my impulses, throughout my teens and 20s, was something I thought of in terms of shame and repentance. I saw my past with disdain and regret, constantly wishing I could go back and change the things I had done. I never wanted to be that person, when I was that person, because the tapestry of my life was sewn though with the fabric of religion and sin. I never once stopped to realize how each experience was making me into someone that, someday, I could embrace within myself. Even though I did not take the time to see how rich and complex the highway I travelled on was, right from my start it was all this and more.As I stand at this distance, I now realize how conditioned I was to repel any idea of freedom or pleasure. The Bible told me so. I was trapped, just like so many others, by the very same walls I built for myself. While the life in moderation is a nice idea, by the time I hit 30 years of age, it was way too late for such notions. There was a part of me that continued to be reckless and act on my wants. The entire time I was trying to just live my life, or some semblance of it. I felt like I was destroying any chance I had to be the kind of person that would make my parents, and me, and especially God, proud. I didn't look at what I accomplished, or any success that came with it, I focused only on the things I did wrong. I was the maker of my own condemnation.
When everyone, and everything, around you screams that you are rotten to the core, you start to believe it. I shoved who I had been away so I could not see it. Then, at least, I could live with myself. I let the world around me define who I was and let everyone else determine my happiness for me. I put my past out of my mind, not so much to forget, but to survive. Living everyday hating yourself is one very long roadtrip to oblivion. Even if you tell yourself it is not.
For most of my life, I wanted to rewrite my history. Who doesn't wish that each mistake made could be erased? It would be nice to just pretend that I wasn't who I was back then. No more shame, or guilt, and no evidence of who I've been. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. The experiences from the path I have travelled are what brought me from that place. They carry us all in our own way. What once appeared to me as a truth had to be dissected to free me from those hopeless days.
I cannot boast of anything that I have done. I am not proud of many of my actions. From the rubble of who I was, I am now aware; everything must fall away for one to clearly see. I have to believe that my past, my history, was meant for me. Not so much to reveal judgment, from God or myself, but to free me to see truth from a different place. I've done things that most people would never imagine doing. The places I've seen and the people I have met astonish even me. Most people would kill to have half of the pleasant experiences I've had. While I never looked on them fondly, now I see that the good, the right choices I made, are just as much a part of who I am now as all the mistakes I made. I guess you really do have to just get in the car and drive.
“Enlightenment is a destructive process.It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier.
Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth.
It's seeing through the facade of pretence.
It's the complete eradication of everything we
Imagined to be true.” (Adyashanti, American Guru)
When I hit the freeway this morning, the road looked clear to me. I checked again in the rearview mirror but could not find what I was looking for. It's gone. I took the wheel and I headed down the highway, full tank of gas. I didn't know where I was going, but I was sure it had to be better than where I just left. I turned on a station, song recreation, blaring as the world goes by. All of life before me, I could see for miles. I felt the sun on my face and the wind on my skin, and then I started over again. 100 miles an hour may be much too fast, but I can't wait to see where I'm going before I run out of gas. This ain't no slow drive, it's a joyride.