by Rachel Birdsell
“Never look back, darling. It distracts from the now” – Edna “E” Mode
Sometimes it’s hard to get away from your past. It seems as though it’s always right behind you, leering at the back of your head, and occasionally tapping you on the shoulder to remind you that it’s there. Sometimes the past even makes us worry about the future. It whispers all of the things that could possibly go wrong so loudly in our ear that we can’t focus on anything else.
But maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have these problems. Maybe you only see the positive and you live in the now. Maybe you’ve taken the past, wrapped it in brown paper, tied it with sisal twine and stacked it neatly on shelves that are categorized and labeled with names that indicate their contents.
My past is a little messier than that. It’s intertwined in my everyday life. It winds itself through my hair and wraps itself slowly around my neck, until it chokes out any sensible thought I might have, which probably isn’t much even on a good day. I’m not wearing the past as a choker because it goes with my outfit, but rather because I allow it to be there because I can’t seem to reach up and pull it away from my throat.
We, as a society, like to remind people of their past. Remember when Clinton got a beej? Remember when Robert Downy Jr. was just a drugged-out alcoholic? How many gossip rags are out there? And if you want to make it personal, remember when your partner insulted your outfit? Remember when you accidentally caused a car accident? Remember what you did? Remember what you did? DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU DID? Because if you don’t remember, we will remind you. We will repeatedly jog your memory about your screw up, because we don’t typically stop and think how much we beat ourselves up over our past mistakes. We don’t think about that when we’re reminding someone else of their past. We aren’t gracious and empathetic. We, as a society, are pretty much a bunch of assholes when it comes to reminding people of their mistakes.
I want to wrap my past in those brown packages that are neatly tied and labeled. I want them to just be in storage and only opened if direly, desperately and entirely necessary. My overcrowded brain is tired of hearing them jumbling around up there. And, I will try my best to be empathetic when someone else is choking from their past. I will reach around their neck and quietly untangle the tendrils of the past from around their throat. And then I will sit and help them neatly wrap their past into bundles to be put on shelves and left to gather dust.
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.