What does the past do for us? What does it remind us of? Is it healthy at all to think about the past? Wish it were different? Speak to it as if it happened just a few hours ago? Think about possible other outcomes? Remember the day in detail, because you’ve written about it back then, so you can read the powerful words that were once as fresh as a wound?
The past… it’s one of the most powerful teachers, tormentors, reminders, heart breakers, that we have. All we know is our past. It’s the easiest thing we can connect our present to. It’s the easiest thing to connect our possible futures with. It’s what we fall back on. It’s the crutch that helps heal our broken legs, until we trip over it. It’s the bulk of our lives, and where we come from, and in our own minds, predicts where we’re going to go from here.
Where do we go from here?
Do we continue thinking about what it is that made us angry years ago, a year and a half ago, nineteen years ago, and hang on for dear life as the present melts away, falling in streaming droplets down the windowpanes of our lives? Do we wipe it all away and pretend it never happened? If the latter is ‘better’, how? How can we do that? How can we ignore the past, or else keep it away wrapped up in a sealed box, only to be looked at very occasionally, and only when we really really really need it? How come in the technology age, the past keeps coming back to hurt, haunt and maim us with subtle reminders, or subtle ways we can glimpse at it and remember what it was like when the past was ours and the past was our present?
The past is perplexing to me. I can scarcely move past it, though I am trying constantly to do so. I can scarcely say goodbye to it when I know I should, and I want to, but at the same time I know I would miss little fragments of it if they were to suddenly blow away in the wind like dandelion seeds. I can’t forgive it, though I can look at it with eyes that are blase and meandering and nonplussed. And yet, sometimes my thoughts are needle-pointed with anger and hatred and regret, just by glancing back at something that was once a part of my life and now, is not.
In those moments, I write. I write to make pilgrimages to people and places and events that happened and that cease to happen as I am safely away from it all and gratefully airlifted out. I write because it makes me feel better to write something that someone might read and understand, and it might make them feel like shit about themselves, as it should. I can’t exact revenge. I can’t tell someone to their face how I feel when those things have occurred in the past. So writing is all I have. It’s the only way I can express to the world, to myself, the ways in which I’ve been hurt and organize them like neat little file folders in a drawer.
The past should be legible. The past should make sense. And only in hindsight can it be that way.