Reflections on a Past Life

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

— Charles Dickens

I sit here on a suspiciously warm February night, finally taking time to write down all of the reflection and introspection that I have been diligently undertaking over the past few months. My house is a wreck; boxes stacked everywhere as I try to combine two homes into one. To merge all the “stuff” from a past life into a new one that has barely taken wing. Yet, here I sit, because I can’t stop the thoughts from overflowing with every box I empty, every dish put away. By the by? I might have an addiction to coffee mugs and someone needs to help me. It’s normal for one girl to have over 50 mugs, right? Right?

When I think of how 2018 started on New Year’s Eve, I was very much stuck. I was sad, and even in a house of people, very alone and isolated. I don’t think I waited for the clock to reach midnight, and I am fairly certain I went to sleep when Liam did after trying to stay awake catching up with Game of Thrones.

Fast forward to how I spent this New Year’s Eve: very much alone and in an empty house in the physical, but not sad. Not stuck. And yes, I will admit I felt lonely, save for the company of my animals, but it wasn’t like before. I stayed up well past midnight, watching the World War I Italian Epic 1900 as my way to pass the time on recommendation of a friend. Wonderful film, and exquisitely directed, for those interested. A lot of care went into its making, and if you have over 5 hours to watch it, I highly suggest the undertaking. It will be worth it!

All the space in between those two nights? I could fill probably a hundred books or more with all that transpired. I experienced more sadness and guilt than I ever thought possible. I hurt many of the people I love the most, and lost most of my support system in the process. I made mistakes, some for the better, and some for worse. But also? I found more love and hope and joy than I knew could exist, even if only for the briefest moment. Most importantly, I found myself again, even if I am a bit more isolated for it.

I feel as if I was asleep for the longest time, with my true self in some cocoon buried far beneath the surface. That’s not entirely a metaphor, honestly. Very purposefully did I spend much time and effort hiding parts of myself that I felt were unworthy and undesirable. If I could deny those parts of myself forever, then maybe I could fix whatever was wrong with me that made people leave me, went the logic in my head. It took someone out of the blue to point out to me that I might actually be worth something as a whole human. And thus, the awakening, in all of its ugly glory, began.

That awakening was more an arson than some gentle rousing from a dream. I burned my life to the ground and stood sobbing in the ashes, lighter in hand. I look for no pity in this — I very much put myself in this position. I just hate the effects my actions have had on my family, most of all Liam. In all of the changes of the year, my heart aches for him the most. Yet even in all of my pain and worry for him, he brings me so much joy and strength. He has been the biggest reminder that no matter what, I go must go on, and that yes, for someone at least, I am good enough. For one tiny person, I am worth loving.

Before my 5 hour movie watching spree, I took a short day trip to the ocean on a whim. I was compelled, and I knew why. The ocean is one of the few places where I can completely turn off and go deep within. I was dizzied from all of the instability in my life. In no place, work, home or socially, could I really say things were “good”. So I answered the primal call and packed up Corinne one morning and drove out to the small town of South Port with two items in mind: visit the cemetery, visit the ocean.

South Port and Oak Island provided the perfect venue to proverbially kill those two birds with the one stone. Corinne and I made our first stop at Old Smithville Burying Ground, which is one of the oldest cemeteries in Eastern North Carolina. We roamed under the sprawling oaks for about an hour or so, taking in that familiar peace you can really only find in a cemetery. No judgement there, as those souls are long over such mortal concerns. Whenever I visit a cemetery or graveyard, I like to read the names quietly aloud to myself. It’s something I have done since childhood, to carry on their immortality for a little while longer, as the saying goes:

 

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” — David Eagleman, Forty Tales from the Afterlives

The day was chilly, with storm clouds constantly threatening rain but never making good on the promise. After paying our respects, we hopped back in the car for the short drive to Oak Island. I was happy to see that the beach was mostly empty, just the way I like it. Corinne and I walked up and down the dunes for a bit. It was her first visit and though she enjoyed the sand, the water was not her favorite. We did find a shark’s tooth in the surf, which I felt a fun little confirmation from the universe that we were welcome in our trek.

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I sat for a long, long time on that beach underneath a slate blue sky. I thought my whole life through, every moment and every choice that had led up to the one in which I found myself then. Corinne laid at my feet, whining here and there in that puppy impatience of hers, but otherwise she let me be. I thought of abandonment. Of love. Of loss. Grief and heartache and where to go. What to do. And I found a sprig of hope there within myself. A little green bud on a tree that had long since withered and been left for dead. After about two hours, I got up and dusted the sand off myself outwardly, as my inner self brushed off the ashes of my burnt down life.

Yes, a lot had gone wrong. I learned many lessons from that, and I hope no details were lost on me, because I very much want to continue to grow. But there were things that had gone right. Those were my rallying points. Gratitude and love for my son, for my few friends and family who stayed and supported me, for my new home, my animals. And hope, again, for brighter days.

As I said, I could write so, so much more about the year. About the good and the bad. The bliss and turmoil. The high points were thrilling and wild and more wonderful than I ever knew life could be. The lows were utterly terrifying. Once during the summer, and again towards the end of the year, there were points where I thought I legitimately might not survive. I was sick not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I let emotions get the better of me at times, and it took a dream where I was smacked in the face by someone who looked like Jesus and told to “get your shit together” to, well, get my shit together. How Christlike, ha!

Living through 2018 gave me whiplash emotionally, mentally, and physically. Even as I sit here now, writing away, I’m recovering and healing. I don’t know what the future holds, less to say that I have many creative endeavors in the works that I hope to bring to fruition soon. I have other hopes in my heart as well, keeping them guarded and under lock and key for now. I started off 2018 hopeless and stranded. I start 2019 off stranded, in some ways, but stronger. And this time? I am anything but hopeless.

 

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