Hey there reader-friends.
I’ll be frank here: I have a rough idea of what I want to write about, but the direction is undetermined. This past weekend saw a family matter erupt that’s been brewing for a long time. I don’t think anyone involved is surprised, but there’s been a lot of heartache with the things that needed to come out finally coming out.
The revelations and fallout got me thinking about the past generally and when it’s time for folks to finally go their own way. Feelings about the past are one of those things everyone deals with at least once. If there’s been a trauma that you don’t address, usually with the help of a professional, it’s inevitable the trauma will creep into present life. Or for some people, the past will come bursting through the walls like the Kool Aid man.
Candidly, my brain has been thinking about various pasts from my adult life more frequently. I know this is a result of a mild anxiety I’ve been dealing with. It reminds me of the story about the two wolves. The story goes that inside each of us are two wolves, and you can feed either the good or the evil one and reap the consequences. I know feeding the evil one (dwelling on the old memories that make me anxious) is dumb, and it would be far more productive to not do it. But I’m human and the roller coaster ride isn’t stopping yet, so dwelling on old memories and emotions has been a hobby for the past few months. Right after comfort eating and playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons when I should probably be blogging, or cleaning, or folding laundry.
Thinking about the specific past memories has resulted in a few things. Sometimes its gratitude, such as when I stumbled across an article about one of my state’s elected officials getting called out for using a doctored photo of his opponent. My original career goal was to become a press secretary for a government body, and I moved to Columbus almost seven years ago to pursue a very entry-level job in state government. On the outside it looked like a dream and I thought I made it, that I was about to make my dream come true.
Then I actually started working in that role. And I discovered that for every elected official who is lovely and there for the right reasons, there’s like nine more who are raging narcissists and demand everyone else cater to their egos. I know I don’t have a poker face, so the skepticism when a leader tried to convince me the leftover mean girl (one of the elected officials I had to work under) was “the nicest person ever, she is just so nice” must have been obvious to even a blind man. I lost that job at the six month mark.
At the time losing that job was devastating, but after reading that article, I was relieved. The press secretary for this particular official was a woman I had envied as being the woman I wanted to be – pretty, thin, fashionable, with an apartment in the heart of downtown and frequently traveled all over the country and world on elaborate vacations. The ultimate cosmopolitan girl. I thought that entry-level job was going to be step one to becoming her.
But then I read the article, where she had to admit her boss messed up and defend him (don’t ask how – it was some goofy excuse I don’t remember), I remember thinking to myself, Thank God I don’t have to defend dumbness for a living. So in hindsight, I would have been a terrible press secretary and it’s better I’m far away from that industry.
Then sometimes, thinking about certain memories makes me wish I had the courage to leave awful situations or break off relationships when it was becoming obvious they weren’t right for me. I think “toxic” is one of the most overused words in the past five years, and at the same time when the shoe fits – it fits. Since the entry-level role I mentioned earlier, I had a few positions that I chose to stay in because I thought the long-term benefits or trade offs would make the immediate unhappiness worth it.
Only thing I got from those positions was chest palpitations, bloating (side effect of stress eating), increased crying fits and the occasional acne in locations pimples don’t typically crop up on me.
Then there was my previous relationship. Last April until our actual break up in July was our breakdown period, and I’m finding myself comparing where I was mentally last year to where I am this year. For the record, even with grieving my grandfather and getting adjusted in a new job, I am in a better place. However, old memories keep popping up and reminding me of the times I don’t miss and never want to experience again.
At that point, I genuinely thought I could hang in there and once I was working again, the stress over us would go away and we could keep moving on like it was all a blip on the radar. That he would be happy with me again, and the depression that was looming over me would be gone.
However, in retrospect, me losing my job really forced me to look at him and see how he handled stress and situations outside of his control. It wasn’t in a way I would be okay with in marriage and parenthood. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that if only I listened to him, if only I did things exactly the way he did I’d never have any problems because after all, he never had any problems. He was proactive. And the browbeating was always followed with this patronizing question I never want to hear again in my life: “Does it make sense?”
In case any of you wondered, my ex was a teacher. I’m leery of ever dating another one of those, unless they can drop the “teacher tone” (talking down to me like a child) at the door.
So lately, I’ve been thinking about the past a ton. And I’m trying to treat as a history lesson, to dissect the ridiculous thoughts that keep coming back and see if the reason they keep coming back is because there’s something I need to learn from it. The lesson from the government job was easy – stay in the private sector, people are normal there. My failed relationship has a few lessons, and I think the biggest one is – don’t be so concerned with getting to a preferred future that you’re willing to write off some serious issues in the present. And to never date someone who genuinely thinks every single thing in life can be controlled.
But for everything else that doesn’t have a clear-cut lesson, the best thing to do is to take an inventory of all the memories and the emotions attached to them, and be willing to take a few steps back. One of the televangelists my mom used to have on used to say that “if your memories are bigger than your dreams then you’re in trouble, since the past can’t see the future.” I’m accepting that not everything has a teachable moment right away, and sometimes the why question is never answered. Sometimes the timing is awful or the people straight up suck (I use the latter a lot, not gonna lie.) Sometimes the past is sore and sad, and all you can do in the present and for the sake of the future is be willing to break any old ties to it.
This brings me back to the family matter I referenced earlier. Neither of the two parties involved are wrong, and it’s not a matter of assigning blame anyways. It’s a matter of needing to step back, give space and let everything that’s been bottled in out. So for any of you reading this who are dealing with your own anxieties over the past and watching it play out in the present – do whatever it is you’ve got to do. If you need professional help, seek it. If you need to take some time to retreat, process and cry it out, close the blinds and get that started. And if you’re in one of the sad situations that needs an estrangement, or to go completely scorched earth – scorch it. May the flames of the ground you’ve burned light the way to a better, healthier place.
This wasn’t the generic Easter post I had in mind, but you know what? Easter season is a time of transformation, so if this serves as inspiration for someone to save themselves from the past, that works for me.
Yours in reading,