“The past is the past.” They say, “Bury the past. Don’t look back, look forward.”
Three AM I lay asleep in my bed. I hear someone coming down the stairs and talking in a hushed tone. My stepfather cheating on my mom, talking to his mistress. I choose not to tell my mom. I try to forget it happened.
San Diego, 2005–I am on vacation with my dad and my older brother. My first time seeing the ocean, its vastness makes me feel for once I am not alone. God must be real to create something so large, open, and free. My dad disappears one night with a woman, my brother and I passed out in the back of the Range Rover parked on the beach. When we return home to Utah his girlfriend questions me. I tell the truth. My dad is disappointed. He yells at me. I know he is embarrassed. I ask for forgiveness and we bury the past.
I talk to my grandma about my pain, she tells me I can have enough faith to move a mountain. I believe her. The summer before I start high school she discovers she has one of those incurable diseases…Stage 4 Uterine Cancer. She refuses Chemo and we visit her regularly for the last four months of her life. The last day of her life, we gather together around her bedside. God wanted us there as she took her last breath. I laid next to her and told her I loved her. I witnessed her give her precious spirit willingly to the unseen place where a soul finds rest. She died on June 25th, 2010. On this day, I learn life has purpose, but I resent God for using these terms to teach me. I put the lesson behind me.
I wake my younger brothers up (on my mom’s side) on a weekday morning for school. I help them get dressed, pour their cereal, then the milk, finally sending them out the door at 7:30AM sharp. Successful people are on time, I tell myself, My brothers will be successful, they will break the odds. My brother born after me, my mom’s second oldest, struggles with Tourrets and OCD. At 13-years-old his teacher tells him he will never amount to anything because he is a jerk. That night, we stay up laughing and talking about Grandma and Uncle Jeff (who shortly died after my grandmother due to prescription pill abuse), I tell him not to believe his teacher. We move passed it.
My mom is going through her first divorce. I am in my room when I hear something shatter. I rush upstairs to find a broken bowl–its pieces scattered across the kitchen floor. My mom is crying and refuses anyone’s help cleaning up the glass fragments. She’s now a single mother again and has reverted back to the mentality of survival, showing no weakness, no emotion. Until something breaks, and then she does too. I cry with her, begging God or whoever is in charge to make her suffering go away. I want to provide relief. But just like she refuses to let me rid the shards of glass from the floor, she refuses to let me rid the shards of glass from her heart. I go to my room, consumed by thoughts of how I can be a better daughter, soon I fall asleep. The next day is as if nothing happened. She buries the past.
I sit in Sunday School, a year following my choice to be baptized and confirmed a member of the LDS faith. I am eleven-years-old. Being at church makes me happy. I memorize all the last names of the families who attend every week, families with cohesion, function, normality. The lesson is on repentance. “Everyday,” our leader tells us, “you sin. God remembers all of your unrepented sins, even the ones that seem insignificant, and you will too when you stand before him.” The wheels turn in my mind and I ask if we should write down all of our sins to remember what to repent for at the end of the day. She tells me I am right to keep a record and to do whatever it takes to make it back to God. I keep a list of my sins. I keep a list of my family’s sins. I keep a list of the world’s sins. Later on in life I will look back at this way of living and use it as fuel to my fire to find true compassion.
Despite the imperfections of the LDS faith, there is a scripture in the Book of Mormon I know to be true:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” -Ether 12:27
There is darkness in our world and many people see “dwelling” on the past as unhealthy or counter-productive, but I share these experiences to show examples of inconceivable heartache being transformed in to pure grit and strength.
Every single one of us have weak things God is waiting to make strong. We show God our vulnerability by living imperfect lives and making destructive decisions. Sometimes we don’t understand our desire to choose something contrary to the benefit of our lives, decisions directly effecting our loved ones. We’re influenced by others, by our pasts, by false perceptions and lies, by pride and selfishness. Yet, without weakness, we cannot be made strong.
Dig deep to find yourself. Sometimes you might take a risk and the result may appear to not work out in your favor. But risk is always in our favor. When you take risks, the outcome will force you out of your comfort zone and lead you to discover your truest self, to discover your heart’s rawest desires. (Even if it hurts at first, the end result is worth it.)
You cannot love someone if you do not love yourself. You cannot love yourself if you do not accept who you are. You cannot accept who you are until you know who you are.
All the hate we harbor for past decisions, regrets that linger in the back of our minds, resentment towards our trespassers, self-pity…it must be expunged and replaced with love for our past, gratitude in the back of our minds, forgiveness towards our trespassers, self-worth.
We all suffer, we all laugh and rejoice. I believe God gave us families, friends, and communities so we could provide one another with consolation. I am 20-years-old with few answers to infinite amounts of problems. But answers or no answers, until the day God wills my heart to stop beating, I will not stop fighting to console the distress of others or my own.
Let’s not bury our past, let’s bury our hostility and instead, let’s discover new ways to use our past to find resilience–to create a brighter future.
To those out there fighting the battle of coming to terms with distant griefs and unhealed wounds of what used to be, you don’t have to force yourself to let those things go. They are beautiful because they made you who you are, they are beautiful because you lived through them.
New perspectives, more love…