Putting Down the Past

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Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

When I was little bad things happened. 

My dad was an abusive alcoholic, my mom was detached, and the poverty was deep. For reasons I still don’t understand, I felt the need to raise myself with hope of better days. 

Typically, I only share those dark days sparingly, like if I’m trying to make an inspirational point about overcoming childhood trauma. Even then though, I skip full-blown details because I’ve eavesdropped on plenty wound-sharing conversations and witnessed them turn into wildly depressing Who’s Had the Most Bullshit Childhood debates.

When I talk about those years, it’s often in that cliff note form: 

When I was little bad things happened.

So when my daughter, who has a treasure trove of delicious childhood memories, randomly asked me the other day why I hardly mention any experience before the age of seventeen, I said, “Because I processed that period and put it down a long time ago so I could reach for something better. Either I’m going to be there in the past chasing victimhood or here in the now chasing joy.”

We were on the phone and I couldn’t see her face, but felt her smiling. 

“But, how do you not think about parts of your life?” 

“I don’t know.” With sudden goosebumps, I paused. “It’s a choice I made early on and I guess it was surprisingly solid.”

“Oh,” she said. “I think I get it.”

I think she did. 

Later, what came to mind was an anthem-like thing I read as a teenager that stuck with me. Although I have never again been able to find that passage or even remember the author, the gist of it was that if you’d had a challenging childhood to think about the kind of life you would like to create as a gift to that Little You who suffered so much. I often have this in mind when I make life choices, especially when it comes to:

  • Avoiding chaotic, volatile people and situations
  • Staying grounded with meditation and rituals of self-care
  • Cultivating self-love and confidence
  • Having a sense of wonder about life
  • Dreaming big dreams
  • Loving and being loved

I can’t promise not to break anyone else’s heart, but I can promise not to break mine by over-visiting the past. And that’s that.

5 thoughts on “Putting Down the Past

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