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Who I used to be...
Confrontations on the cushion
"Try to bless your demons and let them go away. Demons, anxiety, desire, things you never did, let them go and think about things you did do. Try to let go" - Frederick Buechner, The Remarkable Ordinary
My phone vibrates and chimes, but I’m already awake and waiting. I swipe the screen, not from sight but from memory. My gesture silences the sound but does nothing to quiet the alarm behind my eyes.
It takes a kind of contortion to get out of bed. A Parkinson's not of the body, but of the will. An inner strength degenerating. A stability turning tremulous. It is the hardest thing I will do today.
I pull the cushion from the corner. It's three shades darker than the gray of the floor. One shade lighter than the heaviness in my head. The same color as the memories of a life I’ve never lived. As dull and as bleak as the one I’m living now. It’s buckwheat hulls rustle with their own contortions as I sit. I envy its ability to be both malleable and firm. I fold my legs and close my eyes.
The smell of a match blown out is lingering. The waft of an incomplete combustion. Friction and heat extinguished. Sulphur dioxide giving way to melted wax and wild fig. I can still feel the place on my finger where the flame stretched towards its last desire before finding nirvana. I try to watch my breath, but all I can see is the panorama of all I've done wrong.
Joan Didion says that “we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us”. The ghosts of my grievances past, the spirits of my unfinished selves, the apparitions of who I used to be, they cry out and call to me on the cushion. Demanding to be reckoned with. They have found no peace, and they refuse to let me.
Didion says that “We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” But, in my attempted acts of mindfulness, I remember everything. I remember it all.
The bratty child, already developing a taste for self-loathing and deceit. Desperate for attention. Never satisfied. Never sated. Always wanting more.
The volatile adolescent, so full of disdain, so self-absorbed. So full of the empty need to be accepted. So willing to do almost anything to be approved, to be special, to be reassured.
The young man, as arrogant as he is insecure. Ambitious and discontent. Greedy and tactless. Hungry for recognition. High on the idea that he’s above it all. That he’s immune from the impending crash. That he’s impervious to the fall.
The adult, unworthy of the name. The husband who hadn’t grown up enough. The father, still too naive. Still too immature. Grasping and ungrateful. Overwhelmed by the gnawing ache to be somebody. To be something. To be more.
The man who took everything for granted. Who had it all, or at least enough, and lost it, salvaging a little less each time. Too busy building a better grudge against the world.
I am, what Didion describes as, “an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that details one’s failings”. The “fresh footage” of my own slow unraveling “spliced in for every screening”.
I keep still. Trying to keep some distance. Trying to remember to breathe. Getting lost. Coming back. Getting lost, and coming back again.
"There is no stopping what the gods make you,“ says Marlon James, “no reshaping” the way they “shape you”. I don't believe in gods. They don't believe in me. But I know all my demons by name. They are legion. They are many. They are me. There is no knowledge or name strong enough to exorcise them. There is no release.
Maybe some things never really let go of us, or maybe we never really let go of them. Maybe letting go really just means letting things be. Letting whatever has been, be. Letting whatever will be, be.
All the contrition, all the repentance, all the trauma, all the remorse. The need to be vindicated, forgiven, or absolved. Let it go. Leave it be. Let it be what it is. Leave it where it lies. It needn't be covered or carried. The only thing left to do is live.
I'm not proud of the person I was. I haven't learned to accept who I've been. I don't know if I can love who I am. But every morning I try to make their acquaintance. I try to make amends.
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