We’ve all seen some stuff in life, haven’t we?
My “stuff” is having been through several surgeries, three body casts and a year on crutches to fix my hip dysplasia. Nothing truly stuck, so nearly seven years ago they replaced it, and just like that, a lifetime of discomfort and struggle was lifted.
Since my bar for “normal” is completely skewed, I feel closest to that pinnacle than ever before. I still have discomfort and need to stay strong, but this discomfort is laughable in the eyes of what existed in my life before.
Although that journey is in my past, its challenges come alive in me nearly every day, and I see the person it has created. Sometimes it’s good in the way I have strength, tolerance and steely resolve that borderlines on insane stubbornness. Other times it manifests itself in how I judge laziness so harshly. I was a teenager who woke up at 5:30 most mornings and got on the treadmill, determined to walk, so it’s hard to shake that balls-to-the-wall mentality.
Again, sometimes where I’ve been serves me well. Other times, it turns me into a real jackass.
The popular philosophical mantra nowadays is “live in the moment” and I wholeheartedly agree with that. Live in this day because the past is gone, and tomorrow is not guaranteed, but come on, let’s step away from the Oprah-isms for a second and give homage to a few unchangeable things that can help us if we let them.
When people talk about the past, it usually carries negative connotations. But it isn’t just this fictional, fuzzy picture that has nothing to do with who we are today. Our experiences, choices and interactions have been quilted together to mold the person reading this today.
Maybe even the challenging, traumatic things have something salvageable amidst the chaos. I like to think of the past as someone I really don't want to invite to a dinner party, but I have to. I welcome her in, and set a spot for her at the table because her existence is valid. But if she says too much, I will get lippy with her.
I think of my own parents, and now that I’m a parent I can reflect on the fact that they were at one time just kids growing up, being crafted by their experiences. They were simply people before they were my parents. They were children of imperfect parents. They had miscarriages. They experienced war.
Although that’s the stuff that should be left behind, maybe it’s okay to try to make peace with it and cut ourselves some slack that the present version of ourselves is wounded and affected. We can’t pretend the past doesn’t exist and doesn’t sometimes have its hands around our necks.
That doesn’t mean we use our pasts as a get-out-of-jail-free card anytime anything goes wrong. Although, I do love joking with my husband when he asks me to do something, and I don’t feel like it, I say, “Oh, my hip. So...much...pain...and...sadness.”
My life doesn’t stop at this picture of an 80-pound 13-year old in a body cast.
I’m not just a person with a bum hip. That’s one tiny part of this wacky fabric of me, but that experience, and everything that came along with it, can bring me to tears in half a second because it was so challenging.
No one can ever truly understand what I went through, the same way no one can ever truly understand what you've been through, and dang, that can be frustrating, can't it? I can either focus on that, or I can focus on the compassionate, grateful, empathetic person I am today as a result of those challenges.
What about you? What has its hands on you from the past? Chances are, you’ve been through something that has changed you to the very core. Maybe change isn’t always a bad thing. The circumstances aren’t always great, and we can leave those behind and move forward in healing, but the lessons are something we can embrace to bring today more into focus.
Being in a body cast in the June sun is something I’ll gladly leave behind and not dwell on, but that scrawny kid still resides in me, pushing me forward each day.