The Good is Better Because of the Bad

I’ve been rewatching Skins. There’s a scene in the fourth season between Effy and Freddie where she looks at him and tells him that all of her bad memories are gone, and she only has love left. She had been dealing with manic episodes and psychosis, subsequently getting sent to a hospital and having constant care from a psychiatrist. This psychiatrist helps her to “delete” all these bad memories, but it eventually is shown that this is even worse for her mental health. She loses so much of who she has become because she no longer has bad memories to remind her of her growth and change.

There have been several times in the last few years where I’ve wished to just delete moments in my life, especially regarding past relationships. I would love to be able to remove moments like my marriage and really even just meeting my ex. I convince myself that being able to delete the hurt and pain, the insecurities and fears that I developed would make me a happier person. I go back and forth between this desire and trying to embrace the failed relationships because they’ve taught me how to be stronger, to stand up for myself, and to leave when it turns toxic. I know that facing these issues is the healthy choice. I just don’t want any of that to tarnish what I have now and who I am now. I’m struggling with balancing my past and my future, and I’m not quite sure how to merge the two.

I had never intended to get married again. I allowed myself to become completely absorbed in that relationship that I lost who I was. I’ve labeled myself as damaged, unlovable, undesirable. I had a couple people come through my life after my divorce that I thought would maybe be a long-term part of my life, but I was unaware of my self-sabotaging these connections for quite some time. When I finally noticed my pattern and the unhealthy consequences, I made a conscious effort to change. When I met Josiah (which is probably a story for another time) and as we grew in our relationship and made the decision to get married, I tried to stay aware of my sabotaging tendencies.

I still feel unworthy. I still feel like my ex and my past haunt me. I still have family and friends who ask me about him and if I’ve heard from him. I suppose the biggest reason I wish I could delete all of the bad memories is because I’m tired of my past demanding to be my present. I’m so excited for what my future is going to hold, and I’m thrilled that I have someone who makes a consistent effort to understand. I know those bad moments will eventually fade until they’re tiny specks in a very distant memory, but I’m trying to accept them as ways to fully appreciate what and who I have in my life now. I think that’s the key in all of this: trying to appreciate the lessons learned from all of the hurtful moments. It’s just a very difficult thing to remind myself day in and day out- the bad is worth remembering because it makes the good so much better.

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Navy Pier, Chicago – June 2016

To the Could-Have-Been..

As mentioned a few days ago, I’ve started the second round of a writing course that’s already proven to be transformative in my life. Many posts I wrote several months ago were inspired by the last round I participated in (here, here, and here), and I’m so excited to see how much this round changes and grows my writing.

There’s been one prompt that has really struck a chord with me so far. In life, there are many moments that you can look back on and realize that the decision made at the time had the power to completely change the course of your life. I was encouraged to write a letter to a person that I could have been by now, or that I think I should have been. The idea is to dig deep and really grow to appreciate the person that you are now and celebrate the decisions that you’ve made to lead you to your current state.

This seems to be a pretty regular theme with my writing, but I’ve been pondering what my life would have been if I had stayed in Arkansas, if I had stayed married, if I had never decided to do a 180° turn in my life. I don’t have to think about it much at all to know that I made the right decision, but sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier on the surface if I had stayed in that life. When I saw this prompt, it was the opportunity I needed to reaffirm my decisions on the major life changes I’ve made in the past two years.

To the could-have-been,

Thank goodness you aren’t the should-have-been. Every day, I’m glad more and more that your existence ended on a dreary October day in 2013. 

You gave up easily. Outside forces fought to keep you living, but if you would have stayed, it would have been the type of life only sustained by life support, constantly pumped full of drugs to keep the heart beating. Thank you for fighting to get free from that half-life.

On the outside, you had it all: a husband, a new house, a puppy…by now, you’d probably have a child too. Under the surface, the person who was fighting to be free- the person who has transformed and turned into the person penning this letter- that person knew it was wrong, that you were heading to a destiny all wrong.

Looking at the surface of my life now, it might seem like more struggles. I’m constantly fighting debt, I am stuck living with my parents, and I have to rely on the generosity of others for transportation. That all may sound a little overwhelming, which it can be at times, but it’s well worth it to be free. Free from the constant drowning feeling I only now understand as the deepest levels of depression. Free from a shallow life focused on trying to achieve happiness through material junk. And most importantly, free from a relationship that should have been a supportive partnership, but instead was an oppressive that stripped me (you, us?) from the excitement that a life full of growth can provide.

So, you tragic could-have-been, I’m more that just happy that you dissolved from reality that day. If you had continued to exist for much longer, I’m not sure you or I would be here today.

Winged Victory of Samothrace- The Louvre, Paris, France (July 2014)

listening to: Florence + The Machine