Getting past the past...

I will always look for more, for the why in this world...

At times, a moment can be so overwhelming, that it spills out of my fingers onto paper because it doesn't feel as though my heart can contain it. The drama of that statement is not lost on me, simply an illustration of something we all feel now and again. There are a couple types of people in the world 1) People that walk around without much insight- completing tasks, creating/sustaining relationships, and are generally satisfied with this. 2) People who seek, ask questions, feel deeply, and reflect on the "why" of things most of the time. I fall into the latter category. As much as I would like to clock in/out of the "normal" duties of a single mother/social worker, I will always look for more, for the why in this world.

Tears and turmoil...

I'm a mindful girl. I do my very best to focus on the present and keep my toes out of the past. But like you, I'm human and sneak back sometimes. I reflect on the path that led me to this place and time. This is often done with gratitude, not with the tears and turmoil that used to fill journals with monotony. It's taken years to get to a peaceful place with some of my ghosts. This got me thinking. Most people have major difficulty with their own past. I thought I would reflect on a few topics that leave people stuck in a time machine.

Simple run of the mill dysfunction...

1) Childhood. Back in the day, Freud was convinced that all problems could stem back to potty training, and/or mommy issues. He was also a cocaine addict. While these facts are a bit embarrassing to me as a mental health professional, he isn't far off in identifying the great impact that a primary caregiver can have on the development of a child. Many patients I see, reflect a history of mental illness or addiction within their family. Certainly abuse is prevalent (sexual, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, financial etc...), neglect, general trauma of any kind (illness, natural disaster, death in the family...), or simple run of the mill dysfunction. Parents unhappily married, Uncle Jed making a mess of things at holidays- you know the story. In addition, we are all such unique beings, that people who experienced the same event may perceive it differently. One is deeply harmed, while the other barely remembers what happened to begin with. 

2) Love. Of course. So many emotions are wrapped up in the vulnerability we share with someone we open our heart to. There is literal spiritual intoxication when succumbing to this phenomenon. It's really a gift, however temporary. Unfortunately, life tends to inch toward Shakespearian tragedy in this realm. Cheating, breakups, divorce, betrayal. These events sting like mortal wounds, and don't easily cauterize. What is so unique about love, is that it is timeless. I see people hurting from events that happened 30-50 years ago, fresh as a baby's bottom.  

3) Trauma. Few people get through life without a trauma or two. This can be the result of anything you might see on Law and Order SVU, to a hospitalization, or even harassment at work. As a counselor, I can peg a trauma situation pretty quickly. Even the sneaky ones. Trauma happens when you experience something traumatic, but also something that you witness as traumatic. For example, many retired police officers, social workers, chaplains, nurses, doctors etc... have experienced vicarious trauma from seeing and hearing horror stories for years. People describe invasive thoughts and images that cannot be shaken. If you would like to learn more about trauma, and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, please read more.

Evokes strong emotions...

While these are just a few of the many chains keeping us attached to the past with cement blocks on our feet, the first step is to identify what it is that's holding on to your psyche. Do you find yourself tearing up when you look at an old picture? Does the sound of a family member's voice make you want to jump out of your skin? What about music? Does it evoke strong emotions of distress or grief? Why? These are fantastic questions to get you started journaling on the topic. Once you have successfully identified your soft underbelly, I suggest processing it with a friend, a counselor, or a trusted family member. There is a stunning and goddess-like author, motivational speaker, and social worker extraordinaire named Brene' Brown. If you haven't heard of her, stop everything and watch this before reading anything else. Brene' (because in my mind, we should be on a first name basis) researched shame for years, and in one of her several books, she talks about identifying your shame person. The person that has earned the right to listen to your vulnerability with open ears and arms. I have a small handful of people I will share the really "I'm naked in a crowd of people and this is a nightmare" thoughts. That's vulnerability. Lean into it, because pushing it away is an exercise in futility. Trust me on that one.

My past is precious...

While the past can wound us repeatedly with haunting thoughts, and memories that create longing or rage, there is another side to the past. When I worked in hospice, I spent many days with dementia patients. These precious and sometimes ornery folks left me hurting for the loss of their past, joyous births, passions, and careers- all gone. Their blank stares and repeated questions gave me a new perspective on my own story. My past is precious. This recently became crystal clear.

1995 Borah High School senior yearbook/2016 Cure concert

We did what friends do...

In high school, I had a best friend. To call her that seems sorely lacking, because she was a soulmate of sorts. We found each other when we were assigned to the same book in reading class, Johnny Got His Gun by: Dalton Trumbo. Before we knew it, we were in advanced theater together, sharing cigarettes, and obsessing over Robert Smith from The Cure. I couldn't begin to count the hours we spent together, simply understanding the deep sadness that cloaked us both. At that point in my life, I genuinely believed I couldn't love anyone more. As time moved on, we did what many friends do. We chose different stories, and lost touch about 15 years ago. Never with malice or ill intent. Simply drifting through this thing called life. A few months back, I got word that The Cure was coming to our town. Without a breath, I reached out to her. There is no one else in the world that I could share that experience with. 

For all the slacking we did in the 90's, we made up for it by the boat load. Jenny is happily married, with two angelic faces that call her mom. She is a supervising RN in the emergency department, and me- a counselor. Who knew all those cigarettes and clocked coffee shop hours would lead to good choices? I found myself overwhelmed by her presence. How had time passed so quickly? Weren't we just? Wow. This is where the past becomes beautiful. As we sat in the arena, welcoming our red-lipped wailing rock god back into our mutual experience, I wanted to wrap her in my time machine and rush back. To the overalls, inside jokes, and giggling with delirium as we studied for finals at Eddie's Diner- drunk on stale coffee. But something more beautiful greeted me that night. As I was showered with chills, hearing the music that formed my understanding of the world around me so long ago, I felt overwhelming gratitude. My past gifted me absolute joy on this night.

Time moves too fast these days...

While the past may cripple some- living in a dark box without light, I was given my past wrapped in a bow with spontaneous hugs and genuine "I love you's." My past is beautiful, and memories priceless. If your past is harming you, find your peace through processing with trusted humans, even the professional ones if needed. Just don't regret your past. It got you to this place in one piece, however bumpy the ride. I've decided to make my past, part of my future. It won't be another 15 years before we share smiles again- I assure you. Time moves too fast these days, and I don't want to miss a thing.