Learning to carry the past


894036Sometimes I look up writing contests, thinking about entering something just to try it. And while reading the descriptions, I wonder, does it have to be something new? Because the feelings they’re after were a few years back, and I don’t know if I can capture all the anger anymore. I hear that’s what it’s like to be an actor, too. You have to rely on feelings you felt once upon a time, or feelings as you imagine them to be.

Writing without feelings is just a dictionary trying to tell a story. And I know that attempting to find inner peace is risking that the feelings will turn their backs on me, that I’ll only remember parts of the dream. Happiness is boring I hear. Conflict drives us, from the squirrel annoying the once-sleeping dogs to the back-stabbing friend who used you to get ahead in life.

There’s plenty of conflict in this life I live, plenty of things I could, even should, stand up and shout about. So now there’s a new struggle, a conflict if you will, between trying to stay calm and let the bad things flow through me away out into the earth, and raising my voice and arms in protest and screaming into the world. I’m trying to let things go, for my health. But in letting things go, will I run out of words? Is this struggle the reason so many writers die young and drunk?

Excuse me, soul, I see you sitting there, trying to heal, and you’re doing very well by the way. But see, I need to have something to say, because it’s who I have to be, so I’m going to have to just poke you a little, maybe just a little scratch.

The truth is my soul is only beginning to heal, and the scabs are delicate. I don’t want to disturb them. I want peace with the past, and I want to always look forward, to move forward into life. I want to let the insanity roll off my back. Someday even, I want to pretend I didn’t even notice it in the first place. But timey-wimey things are tricky, and the past isn’t just a place you visit sometimes. It’s something you carry around as part of your own personal turtle shell. It’s part of your home, present and future. It’s your foundation and your obstacle, and you can’t really pretend you don’t notice, because it creates you. You carry it, and you get used to the burden, and your muscles shape themselves around it.

Making peace with the past means making peace with yourself, your mistakes and triumphs. It means letting the pain back in because you want to remember the joy. It also means not allowing yourself to drown in memories, because you need to breathe. I’m learning to take the past in small sips. The best cocktails blend bitter and sweet, because too much of either offends the tongue. I tell myself the old stories in third person, and I try to forgive myself, even though I know the mistakes by heart and want to shout NO, not that! But in the end, I think the story comes out okay. In the end, I am forgivable, and I deserve fresh air and sunshine and love.

I think the contests will have to wait for another day.


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