Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Past Becomes You

Visiting places I grew up or attended school stirs something in me, something between a sting and warmth. Something I suppose we often dub bittersweet. Know the feeling? You're perched somewhere between intrigued to see the differences and a combo of pain and elation in memories of experiences long past. Reminders, good and bad, linger in windows or restaurants or smells. It can be downright eerie, really.

The general consensus is the good memories are the only ones worth revisiting. Cheery glimpses of, let's say, snowball fights, Waffle House at 2 a.m., drinking so much coffee in the course of three days your hands shake uncontrollably--happy reminders of "good 'ol days." They serve to block out the difficulties or trials you may have endured in the process of collecting the now past bright spots. They help you forget.

Do they? Really?

Often, I've found revisiting the lighter moments revives the darker ones surrounding them. Perhaps they still sting a little, but that's not a bad thing. Own that pinch. Or burn. Or straight-up pain. It's more than part of the place you're visiting; it's part of you. That circumstance has served to mold you into who you are presently. It's made the bright moments that much sweeter. Unless, of course, you wallow (I love the word wallow for the starkly accurate mental picture it gives me: a perpetually messy pig burrowing its nose in slop and filthiness. It can't get clean and doesn't really want to try, for the mud has such a claim the thought of a way out has never occurred to the creature. It's comfortable. So grubby and lethargic it's resigned to remain.). Owning sets you free, while wallowing traps you in the hurt. Result? Stuck, stuck, stuck. And you miss the new bright spots for the dingy prison to which you've relegated yourself.

Your past is your own. Use it honestly and constructively. You went through it for a reason. Let it run amok and you'll find yourself trapped like an octogenarian longing to email a great-grandchild but terrified to touch those buttons. Ask for help, learn what the buttons do, and get to it!

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