This time of year has always been bittersweet for me. It wasn’t until this year that I figured out the real reason why. I usually concentrate on the fact that I met the most important people in my life 21 years ago.
But there was always a twinge of melancholy lurking, waiting for a quiet moment to rear its ugly head. I usually just tried to deny it was there, but there were times when it got the better of me and I ruined otherwise awesome days. I could only deny the past for so long before it demanded to be confronted.
I am a firm believer that our pasts can only define us and our futures if we let them. But it’s easier said than done not letting past hurts stand in the way of a productive life. It is especially difficult when the people responsible for those past hurts are still around.
A leopard doesn’t change his spots…
In that way I’m lucky. Well, luck had nothing to do with it. I left. I walked away from everyone I ever knew and didn’t look back. I wasn’t going to let them continue to hurt me. But that’s a lie.
I did look back. Every day for six months. And then some.
It is only now that I can admit how easy it would have been to go back. I would have had to pay dearly in subtle, little ways, but on the surface I would have made my parents happy. They would have me back in the fold. They would be able to control me again.
And I would have had an excuse not to fight, not to move forward, not to be scared out of my mind about the uncertainty of my future. When I think of how close I came to not having the life I have now I am filled with such gratitude I was able to make it just one more day.
Just one more day until I met the person I could trust. I could share my innermost thoughts and feelings with without worrying about being judged or ridiculed. I could give my heart to without fear of being rejected.
Which is a very big deal. Because if my parents could turn their backs on me then why should I ever expect anyone else not to? Why should I trust anyone?
And I didn’t for such a long, long time. It made me angry and bitter and just an awful person to be around. I was simply waiting for the other shoe to drop any time anyone was nice to me. Waiting for them to disappointment or hurt me.
I was letting my past define my present and my future. Not an easy way to live by any stretch of the imagination. And something else I figured out was that I wasn’t hurting them. I was hurting me and the very people who meant so much to me.
My real family.
And that is the sneaky, nasty bitch of holding onto the past, holding a grudge. The people who have hurt us usually have no idea how much damage they’ve done and even if they do they most likely don’t care. Because if they really cared they wouldn’t have done the damage in the first place.
It’s taken me 21 years to get to a place where I can let the past in just enough to appreciate the journey I’ve taken to get here. To appreciate the strength and determination it took to make it one more day. To appreciate that pain and hurt are sometimes necessary to make the good times that much better.