I try not to dwell on the past. I am someone who subscribes to the notion that one should live in the now, because that’s all there really is, isn’t it? There are times though, where you want to remember. It is the past that shapes the person that you are now and influences your current state of being, contributing to the outcomes of your life and the way you view the world. There are times when I mourn the loss of it all too.
Most days I am fine. I don’t dwell in the past, but it still gets in my way. My experiences are deeply rooted in my psyche, down to my very cells. It is stored there. Both my body and my subconscious mind still operate unbeknownst to my full consciousness, from a place that no longer exists. So even though I may not be directly and consciously thinking about the past, every unconscious thought that I have, every feeling I experience, and every choice I make comes from that space, unless I make a conscious, concerted effort to not allow it to do so. It’s not to say that most of my feelings toward my childhood aren’t positive, but the hold that this time has on me is so strong. It is comprised of a deep longing for something I can never fully grasp.
I grew up in a small town and my childhood definitively shaped me in many ways. I still long to return to that place in time. It seems I always carry this lump around. Even though I can’t always feel it, it is there, waiting for the right memory to surface and make it take up its usual residence within the confines of my throat. There it will be hard at work, urging the tears to well up and finally spill over. This lump feeds off the memories of days gone by; smells often trigger it, a humid summer night, the air dewy and fresh, laced with the perfume of newly cut grass; the sound of crickets, lightening bugs flashing in the night. Memories of sitting on the front porch swing in my new pajamas after having a bath, the thrill of being up past my bedtime though I was over tired and wrought with exhaustion after a day of heavy play. Memories of the touch of my mother’s hand brushing the hair across my forehead…the comfort that I no longer receive on a daily basis, but now provide for my own daughter. I think upon these things and feel a loss for knowing I can never replicate the way things once were, no matter how desperately I might desire to do so. It seems I am constantly searching for ways to bring that time back, always believing that somehow I could with the right job, the right house, etcetera. Then and only then could I feel the glory of those days, the splendor, once again.
But it is no use, nothing will bring it back and nothing can ever be the same, it existed in a different time, a time that had past and now a memory is all it could ever be. The people whom I had loved and with whom I had spent my days and nights have changed; I have changed. Although we will always share the bond of parent and child, brother and sister, I am no longer a child, but an adult. I am free of the confines from which I had once longed for release, but with this gain I have lost something I found to be much more valuable and precious, the security, the assurance, and the peace.
Thinking on this, I realize the longing is actually rooted much more deeply and further back than this. I realize that even as a child, I was filled with longing. One pursuit follows the next, in search for fulfillment of this ache that has always been there. Where does it come from? From a time and space that is beyond the confines of this precarious, temporal existence. C.S. Lewis once said, ““If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”I am in agreement with this and I suppose for anyone else to be, they would also need to believe in life after “death,” or even more accurately, life before birth. I wrote an extensive essay at one time while I was working on my undergraduate degree. This essay explored the themes within the writings of William Wordsworth and William Blake that resonated the idea of existence before birth. When explored, this idea can be seen innately woven through the works of these Romantic poets. In Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality he wrote:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our Life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
As I have written before, our connection to this time and place is much stronger when we are young. As life and indoctrination take over, this “knowing,” becomes obscured. We take on ideas and beliefs that may not necessarily be in harmony with what is True. We all do this. Some are able to maintain more of an awareness than others. Another theme within this poem and much of the work of the Romantic Poets, is that of nature. It is in connection with nature that one is able to access this place in oneself and reconnect to the eternal Peace and Joy that is always there for us if we reach for it. Spending time in nature is an essential part of becoming in sync with the Eternal. In our modern society wrought with human inventions, technology, pollution, cities and the like, we are largely devoid of what is essential. Although we are more globally connected than ever before, we are disconnect.
I recently learned of the passing of a childhood friend and was in a state of shock. The most disturbing part of this knowledge was the fact that it has been ten years since his passing. He has been gone for ten years and I was not aware. This knowledge affected me much more than one would think. This was someone I hadn’t laid eyes upon since I was about fourteen years old, but someone who played a significant role in my early years with contributions to my development. This was the first boy that I ever liked, at the tender age of five years old. Memories came rushing back and I found myself in a state of grief…for him, but for something much more as well. In a sense, he symbolized my youth and a time in my life that holds a good deal of power over me. In the back of my mind, I always felt that I would see him again and everything would be the same as it once was, but it never is. When you think about the fact that he had already been gone all that time and I didn’t know, you start to realize that any person who is fully removed from your life could be gone in the same manner and it would make no difference. And along with those people, so also is the time spent with them, gone. What you can keep is the impression that the made upon your life and the lessons that they brought to you.
The synchronicities of life are astounding; but they are also virtually impossible to see in the present moment. They say that hindsight is 20/20 and this can be true regarding the puzzle of life and the way in which all the pieces fit together. After a time, when looking back, things start to make sense in a way that they never did before. Who are we to question as to why things are a certain way, when we cannot see the bigger picture. Nine years back I had my first serious car accident. I have had three and they have all been during inclement weather. In this particular accident my car hydroplaned and I lost control. My car spun, doing a 360 across four lanes of traffic and stopped after hitting the guardrail on the opposite side of the road. It felt like slow motion and in that brief moment, I thought that I was going to die. Instinctually, I began to pray. No other cars were involved and this was nothing short of a miracle. Two years later, I would have a similar accident in the ice and snow less than half a mile from that very spot. Again, no other cars were involved. I was incredibly lucky. About a week after hearing of my friend’s passing, I learned the details leading to this tragedy. He had been in a car accident in the same area of my first accident, a little over a year before mine. It had been icy and his car had lost control and he had hit head on with a car traveling in the opposite direction. I had no knowledge of this the day of my accident, but had felt someone had been there with me then. Was it him? Now I wonder, and surprisingly don’t find it at all out of the realm of possibilities. Many people would view me as crazy for many of my beliefs because they perhaps have no scientific grounding. Science is merely a word used to describe our finite discoveries of our physical world, and we are only now, through fields such as Quantum Physics and Epigenetics starting to gain any sort of keyhole to viewing the true picture of what really is.
I have always had a fear of death. It is almost taboo in our culture to talk about it. People have a false sense of invulnerability that thinking about death takes away from them, so they would rather not think about it, not face it. I have been guilty of this myself. Death has a connotation of finality, when in reality it is merely just another phase of life. Nothing really dies, and when you wonder what becomes of you after death, think about where you came from. You can only remember back to a certain point, but there is an awareness, no matter how deep down, that you came from somewhere before that. It is this place to which we will return. Is there really anything to fear in this? To get a better sense of this we can consider the words of Eben Alexander, M.D., a neuroscientist who experienced a Near Death Experience (NDE), in which he was entirely brain dead -there was absolutely no electrical activity, and yet, he was fully conscious in another place. In his book, Proof of Heaven, he states, when trying the best he could to describe that place “It was like when your parents take you back to a place where you spent some years as a very young child. You don’t know the place. Or at least you think you don’t. But as you look around, something pulls at you, and you realize that a part of yourself -a part way deep down -does remember the place after all, and is rejoicing at being back there again.” It is these words, and the words of C.S. Lewis that I mentioned, that help me to understand that the longing that I feel is for that Place, and I will be back there one day, and I will rejoice. In that moment, I will finally be Home, in the truest sense of the word. There is no fear in this.