Amidst the overstuffed boxes of memories sat a stack of notebooks, the kind I started to use as journals or for school and then somehow quit. The first couple of pages were scrawled with words I can't remember writing, and then nothing, page after page of empty.
I set them aside and continued to pour over things I've kept over the years. I knew I was taking a risk, leafing through notes from a first love, scanning cards and letters from family and friends, staring long at pictures of a girl I hardly know, and yet know all too well.
With a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat I asked myself why walking down memory lane is so painful for me. I realize that traumatizing things did happen in my more youthful years, some brought on by me and some brought on me. But it seems like other people can look back and say Water under the bridge, no big deal, I was young and that's over now. Live and learn. Move on.
Not me. Starting at a young age, I did take a whole lot of detours, creating pot holes of pain all over my memory lane, and I haven't really been able to let it go even though I know it all serves it's purpose in making me...me. And I'm okay with me...now. Mostly.
But it's still as if I made a choice to attach my past to my ankle and drag it around as some sort of punishment. Which ironically, leaves me living in many of the same behaviors that bring me that feeling in the pit of my stomach, the one that seems so big, I'm terrified it won't ever go away, that pit that leaves me depressed and impatient and distant.
Because it's attached to my leg, the past always seems very close, pulling me from the here and now and leaving me back there, somewhere very lonely, since everyone else seems to have left it all behind, moved on...grown up.
Here I am, 34 years old, stomping my foot and begging God to work some kind of miracle in me, one that would change me, making me more peaceful and less moody, more joyful and less melancholy. Like yesterday, after a particularly difficult road trip with the boys in which I totally lost my cool, I actually resorted to begging God to hurry up and zap me, change me with that instant miracle I've been waiting on my whole life. But He didn't.
(What He did choose to do that very moment was to paint a rainbow across the sky. That was nice, and it did bring me some tears of relief, thinking on how He does still keep promises, but I still wanted to be zapped.) (Just saying.)
Then today I talked with a friend who could be me if we were allowed to share the same body. I told her about the notebooks, the ones filled with things I feel like I'm still saying all these years later, and the ones that are mostly empty. I joked about how those notebooks are a great analogy for my life. How I've wasted so many chapters on what seems like nothing and how it makes it feel like I'm never going to just get over it and change already.
To which she said, "I want to shake that old me. I want to slap her."
ME TOO. (not her, me.)
That's when we both got it at the same time.
I want to be able to say that if I could go back in time, I would hug me. I would forgive me. I would somehow love me no matter what I was doing.
I haven't been giving her that grace.
One thing I know for sure is that God loved me despite all of it, and He still loves me now.
Instead of doing the same, I've looked back in disgust, shaking my head and feeling a whole lot of shame, whether I think I've worked through it or not.
Being hard on yourself for things you cannot change is just as much a waste of time as not forgiving others.
Then my friend said, "I think this is more about love than it is about change."
The change will come with love. Love is a change magnet. Like a rainbow to the rain.
We joked then about how we're not quite ready to hug our former selves.
"Maybe tomorrow," she said. "For today, let's just go with a high five."
Yeah, I guess that's a good place to start, better than a slap or a kick anyway.
Perhaps the next time I sit down with the old notebooks, instead of cringing, hating that young me for what she did or what she said or what she didn't do, I will look at her differently, forgive her, and then leave the pages behind. I hope so. I'd like to love her so she can stop effecting my present.
That would be just the miracle I'm looking for, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to hug her first.
(If you would like to read another redemptive story brought on by the notebooks from my past, I wrote more about them here.)