I’m one of those people that feels before they think. If I say something from myself, then even if it’s verbalized, I’ve felt it before I verbalized it. I don’t regret that, it’s how I am, and it gives life a richness and a sense of contour that I value. But there is something that I’ve had to learn, and that is to not fear the past just because I can still feel it. I’ve done way too much of that.
In part that’s due to a reaction I have to traumatic or frightening or threatening events, whereby I feel like I need to learn something from them, in order to not go through that again. It’s quite a reasonable response, but it has its limits. The “being affected by the past” ends up as a kind of superstition. And superstition really does suck pathetically. There really is no room in our life for that.
A few instances:
For years “1988” was the epitome of awful. It was the year before my breakdown broke, when I was seemingly at the height of the darkness, and experiencing emotional pain, loneliness and worthlessness, internal deadness and negativity like I had never done before. It was frightening and soaked in a sense of dread that I was too busy coping with to actually note. By the time I was ready to break down, I was out of the worst time. I did find significant support from some people, and I had an enormous and immensely healing breakthrough after my breakdown that dispelled everything quite incredibly. But years later I would look back on that time and feel anything from a blank distancing to a residual hauntedness.
I did get busy though, and I did a lot following that time, both in terms of pursuing mysticism and in terms of retraining for a career. I didn’t spend too much time looking back, and that was good. On the other hand, I kinda blocked out the past beyond that point, and for a long time I couldn’t look at who I had been in my twenties.
Forward to 2005, and I was trying to get to the United States to be with my new family and my handfasted husband in Nevada. My god such dreams. And as a same sex bi-national couple we of course had no rights, not as spouses nor as a family. We looked into it, got legal advice, and I was going to get out to Nevada with a 6 month tourist visa for a start. We were not going to break any laws, we were going to follow process and the legal advice we got, but there was no law in place that would allow me to go to the States as what I was, my husband’s spouse. In fact there was a Federal law blocking that (DOMA). It all hinged on the visa from the US embassy in London.
The ghosts of my past just seemed to come back to haunt me, all my fucked up 20s, the things that had come before my breakdown. I went to the US embassy feeling like I was walking into hell but putting on a polite and confident face, and had my visa rejected. My new family was 5,000 miles away. I had a number of hours of anguish before I managed to talk to Phil. We turned straight around, and I got straight on to getting immigration advice for the UK, where civil partnerships would be introduced later that year. I kept on visiting my new family, and 6 months to the day after the rejection of my US visa, Phil was granted his UK “marriage” visa at the consulate in Los Angeles.
I couldn’t go near that damn London embassy without feeling haunted by that day for years. The immigration and naturalization process for Phil took about three and a half years, and it was smooth and successful (though we documented everything just to be sure). After the first 6 month hurdle I relaxed for a year or so, but I worried and feared loss at every technical hurdle we had to pass. I wasted so much of my everyday life worrying about stuff that didn’t happen, and avoiding the memory of stuff that had happened which we had got through successfully in fact.
In 2011 I went through my last haunted time. We lived on the 9th floor of a new tower block in Bow overlooking busy motorways. We’d been there just two months and were really making the best of it, when Phil got really ill, and having been turned away from the ER once, we got him hospitalized and treated. It was an awful time, but we got through, we changed our life, and we moved on from that place. It’s not easy to think of that place without shuddering, though I know we actually did make the best of things, and I jokingly refer to Bow as “fucking Mordor”, that’s how “fond” I am of it.
But I’m damned if I’m going to go through that “haunting by the past” shit ever again. It’s gotten to be real old. And you know what? It’s life, and you survived. While you’re spooked by the past, you’re wasting the reality of the present. Which is to say you’re wasting reality. In other words, you’re plain wrong.
I’ve done a lot of time doing that going over the past, learning from the past, processing, processing, digesting, assimilating, learning thing. And there is a lot to be said for moving the fuck on.
If you have demons, make friends with them. Shine a light in there, see if they want to get with your program and help. Then move on.
Because there is nothing less magical than superstition.