It’s odd to me how “never look back” has almost become a motivational phrase, emblazoned on posters and put in frames to remind you of the punishment it might entail.The people who repeat this mantra act like something will break, like the stasis you find will shatter under your feet if you decide to revel in the past. The past, they say, is an ugly thing. You have to live in the unknowing present. The risk. The momentum. That, of course, is the only way to move forward.
I think they’re wrong.
I’ve found a lot of comfort in progress lately – something you can only see by looking at the past. Progress in my physical, emotional and spiritual self. It’s odd how the parts of me I never thought could change have shattered and healed, revealing a self all the more glorious today than the person I looked at in the mirror one, five, ten years ago.
Glorious. A word I never thought I’d naturally use to describe the person I am today. I grew up being taught not to embrace or enjoy life but that nothing was ever good enough. That baby steps were not progress.That progress only meant perfection. That disappointment and failure went hand in hand and that working hard left the only reward. How hard? I wasn’t sure. Hard enough to break. To find myself staring in a mirror wondering how I ended up there and how I could end my life. How to make the dull ache of every day just stop.
I find that I’m the person that breaks me, after all these years of coaching. That’s what parenting and abuse end up being after all. The mantra in your mind, the voice that can never be silenced. A coach in the worst lessons. I have endured all types of abuse and on any day, I would take a physical beating over an emotional one; skin-deep wounds heal faster.
My mind is the most violent of all. This angry teenager begging for love and compassion. Asking for it with destruction. A constant, repetitious voice in my mind highlighting failures and dulling any glimpses of hope. A whisper, a scream leading up to a violent outburst – only against myself, of course. Swinging as hard as I could into drywall, hoping for some relief with chalky, bruised hands while words escaped me. Keeping myself awake at all hours of every night repeating the fears and worries. Every negative word echoing in a chamber of my mind.
Today, I find myself looking back on that young person with compassion, not fear and anxiety. I don’t see her so much as broken but healing and growing. A collection of moments both good and bad that stack like bricks into building something. Building me. Nothing perfect, but still beautiful in it’s own way.
I learned to hide. I was told if I felt something, I needed to go away and figure it out. Come back if you’re better. Even as an adult, I sent my feelings away to hide. To cry. While most would sob openly, the voices in my head would yell, “just stop already” and “that’s enough,” mimicking the guiding voices of my childhood. To this day, I feel embarrassed to cry even in the closest of company.
Despite all those broken days and times, I find myself asking better questions. I ask myself why I feel things – trying to pinpoint the first time I felt that chaos and listen to the voice inside instead of silencing her.
It’s not perfect. I’m not always the best I can be for me, but I can see me for the first time. I can look at these shambles and see something. I can look at my past and appreciate the chaos. I can find the lessons in the failures.
I can see me. Something glorious I find, looking back.