On the second day of January, this year, I found myself wandering around a cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts… at sunset. Given the historical context of the area, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to stop there. Given the timing of this stop on my journey and the things that I have witnessed along the way, standing in the Old Burying Point Cemetery on that day seemed fitting.
Fitting, because this past year, as I became very focused on working again, moving forward for myself, and even dating, people would ask me where I had been and I would reply “under a rock”. In truth, hiding under that rock was akin to what had landed some of the occupants of this cemetery under these stones. I had been driven underground by fear — of judgement, of misunderstandings, of the trials of life that had become mine, seemingly out of the blue. For years, I felt buried alive by a mountain of trauma and drama and I went out only when I had to to get my children where they needed to be and to navigate the transactions like selling my home and moving and then moving again…
From that point to this has taken 5 years and the stepping stones that led me out from under that rock had brought me, slowly, to here. I had come so far, but there was still something that I couldn’t quite grasp. My therapist had called it PTSD and while that made it sound plausible, it also made it sound hopeless. I had been relentless in excavating and discarding the ideas of me that had been given to me by others and now, weary from that process it would have been so easy to simply bury my hope.
There, surrounded by the markers of souls long dead, I decided to say goodbye to whatever it was that still haunted me. I saw the ghosts for what they were… reminders of all the wrongs that had been done. But like the names and dates on the stones in front of me, they had become worn with the passing of time, so faint that reading them was an effort that did not summon any more desire for attachment. Earlier that day it had occurred to me that walking through life with me was sometimes like an afternoon stroll through a forgotten minefield. Minefield. As that word swirled through my head I realized I needed to dig somewhere else. Because what now had to be let go of was mine.
I was not there to mourn. I have cried enough. I needed my vision to be sharpened, not clouded by tears, so that I could focus on it to free it. So, I pulled a marble from my pocket… a marvelous find during a shopping excursion in Boston a couple of days prior… and through it, I snapped a picture of the setting sun. When I bought it, I laughed, saying that I had found my marbles. This small thing, though, represented everything that was in front of me because it looked remarkably like the new logo that had been developed, just for me. In my purse was a stack of new business cards, already bearing that design. In development was a website and mission for going forward. In the moment that I lifted that symbol of what was to come and looked through it, I laid to rest the only thing still holding me back. I laid to rest not what I focused on in the past, but how I focused through it.
Be it a new project, a new pair of shoes or a new relationship, focusing through the pain of my past colored and cropped my hope for the future as quickly and easily as an Instagram filter and I, alone, held the capacity to change it. Because it was mine.
In the process of healing, I began reframing my memories in a more truthful light and rather than freeing me, I got stuck. I mean, if the only difference between a rut and a grave is the size of the hole, then the only difference between the rock I had been under and the gravestones around me should be a choice, right? A choice just to get over it. To go on living. But in revisiting my past whether in the ornaments on my Christmas tree or a box of family photos, I realized that the knowledge I now had was discounting the happiness I had felt in that moment. And that, in turn, was discounting the happiness I was allowing myself to feel in this moment.
My perspective was reshaping my history while it was shaping my future because I used it in every present moment. It was as if the ghost of Christmas past and the ghost of Christmas future were no longer taking turns, they sat on my shoulders, whispering in my ear like a right turn by wrong turn navigation system that had me riding the brakes.
As I was packing for this New Year’s trip, I had come across a piece of hotel notepad paper in a drawer, and the words I had written on it brought me into the present.
“The essence of betrayal is that the narrative of our life has been destroyed. It is expected that the future is uncertain, but your history should be dependable and it should also be defendable”.
I had written them down while attending a conference in October of 2017 where I heard Esther Perel, iconic relationship therapist and author, speak on modern day relationships and the effect of age-old betrayals and now I see what I had been doing to myself. In learning that nearly 25 years of a 26 year marriage were built upon a lie, the story of my life became fiction. There was no place I could look that looked the same. I was ready and willing to embrace an uncertain future but somehow it became dependent upon on the uncertainty of my memories. There were now ghosts in every old photo and attached to every ticket stub. Every recollection was tainted with a collection of facts that I did not know. I could not depend upon the events in my own history book so how could I defend how happy I looked in its photos and so, by extension, what did it say about today?
Today… the day in that historical graveyard…. I held my phone’s camera in one hand and the marble in the other, it dawned on me that the beauty of living this moment was in the eye of the beholder. I understood that even though the facts beneath my memories had changed, the fact that I had felt happy in those moments hadn’t. I alone, hold that unique perspective in my heart and the only way I could keep it true was to not betray its memory. In accepting the truth, I had allowed it to vandalize something sacred and so I became the guardian of my memories. No longer would I allow someone else’s view find a way to darken mine
I want to take chances and believe in others and trust that even if things don’t work out I will be able to figure it out because that belief is what my happiness, all along, was built on. I was always willing to be wrong in the hopes of getting it right. I was and am willing to get hurt, if that’s what loving means. Because heartbreak isn’t a symptom of something wrong… it is a byproduct of living. Every day people I love become ill, grow old, move away, mess up… and I love them anyway. They say things that hurt and do things I don’t understand. As they move through the rubble of their own broken parts I know that widening my lens to allow for the pain means it now takes in more joy and laughter and light. I can look at them through this wide open heart and know that what I take away is mine, no matter what they are willing to give.
I have been given the chance to rewrite my history in a way that empowers my future and that reframes everything. To that end, this is the last post from MamaBearings as I begin, again… My posts there were about standing up, finding direction and fighting for what’s right and they helped me strengthen my voice. But like my view, I needed to shift direction in order to look forward. Find me in the future at rockyourbluedot.com where I will use my experiences as a mother, my work as an interior designer, and my adventures as an “old” girl in a new life to pass along not how I did it but how I am doing it. Because every time I go to work or grow as a person and parent, I create a space that is supposed to hold a new story. So I will share my story with you… in the hopes of lifting you up, lightening your load, inspiring you to rearrange your furniture or change your conversations.
The Eye of the Beholder
At the end of the day… the truth of that day, need not be written as done. At the end of the day… the battle today, need not be fought to be won.
At the end of the day… the turtle of time, has moved from the shore to the sea. Ancient and endless, the end of the day is bridging has been and will be.
For at the end of the day, is a start of a day, where what’s done is tomorrow’s to tell. And at the end of that day, the beauty you’ll see, need not be shown to be held.