We we’re flying down the highway. My feet were up on the dash. I can’t remember if a song was playing or not. There’s always music in my head. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s on the radio or just my imagination.
We were heading back from a relaxing time in Telluride. Andrew had a Photo Festival and I, of course, tagged along. Yes please, sign me up. I sat in the cabin, worked and stared at the seasons change.
While we were shooting one day, high up on a mountain, it started snowing. I don’t know if it was the first snow of the season, either way, I felt like I was witnessing a secret, privileged moment. The temp noticeably dropped and within minutes, the landscape was full of delicate, tiny snow drops. Seasons change, leaves flare up then fall off their branches, and mountaintops receive a gently dusting. This all happens whether I’m present or not. The world outside my head surprises me sometimes.
Driving back I lost myself in dark hallways and cycles of thought. Memory is an interesting thing. I read this killer post that says that “our brains hold onto the past as if it’s happening right now…Your brain makes the past real, and this is even more true for traumatic events.
When you recall something that hurt you, your brain goes into high alert. Your limbic system responds to that memory the way it responds to a real threat in the here and now. I’m talking about full-on flight-or-fight here; elevated pulse, rapid breathing, the works.”
Out the window mountain-esce Colorado landscapes faded to miles and miles of endless plains. I love flat earth. I love cotton fields yawing into the horizon. I reach my eyes along the pastures, noticing dots of trees and black cows until my eyesight fails me. I feel small, humbled, and it’s a comforting feeling. The world goes on and on, even when I don’t acknowledge it.
I don’t know what made me think of him. It might have been a long train of thought that led me to his face, or it could have been a memory of a song. Either way, I was circling on the face of a long past relationship. I don’t think about the joyful times, laughing, or any words he said. I just remember the look on his face when I broke his heart.
Late at night, his face morphs and blends into others I have hurt, people I’ve dismissed, led on, taken advantage of for my own selfish pride. Continuing down the path unwillingly, next thing I know I’m reliving silly past pain and looping on unnecessary dead and gone issues.
Does your past ever haunt you? Do past relationships and friendships crash into your mind and next thing you know, you’re replaying the argument and fixing how you would handle it?
I lay in bed thinking of this girl and that guy, this embarrassing moment, that misplaced comment, “How did she take what I said? It’s not what I meant to say. Did I not realize what I was doing? I knew what I was doing then, and I just allowed it to happen…” The questions twist around.
Well it turns out, “we change our memories every time we recall them. That’s bad for our ability to recall facts over time, but good for trauma. It’s good because when you recall painful memories in a safe place, the neurological roots of that pain in your brain weaken a little bit.”
Letting go of my past is a process and I’m seriously working through it. I have some friends that I can tell my story to in a safe, loving, non-judging place. I don’t know where I’d be today without their grace and safe place to talk it out. I have a lot of coping tools to support me through other issues but I’m still searching for one to help me through this.
I go throughout my day, and random people and conversations will pop into my head. And seared on my brain is that look. That look when they realize I’ve checked out. That look when I’m saying goodbye. That “What did she just say??” face. That terrified look when they realize I’m more than they can handle or want to. It’s like a vindictive movie reel, looping in Technicolor.
What gets you through those touchy moments? How have you forgiven yourself?
So much of my pain is feeling alone in my battle. Let me be clear, I’m not obsessing over past relationships and filling up my day with their memory. I just get these random flashes of my past and no matter where I’m at, buying groceries or laying in bed and I feel like a spotlight is focused on me. Is this just me or can you relate?
As I’m wandering in circles, chasing down dark memories, reliving that embarrassing moment I glance up at the clouds gathering down the highway. Hot rain soaks our car and cleans off the dirt and fly guts that have gathered over time. Even when I don’t believe it, even when it seems far away, I know this for a truth: God’s grace is all-encompassing.
And when I’m struggling through my issues, I know that He does not let me battle alone.
“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me.” Psalm 40:11