I hear many thoughts on time. Everyone has a favorite quote or verse related to time. Most inspirational quotes or meditations have to do with living in the moment. They talk about the only real moment being the now. “The past is gone… The future hasn’t happened…So live in the moment..Live in the now… Let go of the past..Don’t over focus on the future…Live for today…” All of these concepts in theory sound wonderful! But all of them are working on the concept that time is linear. Linear is defined as 1. progressing from one stage to another in a single series of steps; sequential. 2. Arranged in or extending along a straight or nearly straight line. In my experience time is very far from a straight line. It is far from moving forward through a stage never to look back again. I can plan to move forward. I can be in the moment and have hope for the future. I can keep my head looking in the straight forward position, but time for me is crooked. Sometimes it does a few loops. Time for me is like a big ball of tangled up wires. I can piece by piece sort the wires and straighten them out but there are always a few wires that keep winding their way back around everything and making it a knot again. That red wire is hot. Then it touches the green wire and totally misfires it. Then that affects the white wire and we are back to being jumbled up again. The red wire is the past. I would love to simply cut the red wire and take it out of the mix but I can’t. Because although the past has bad, it is intermingled with beautiful. My daughter was born in the past. I met and married my husband in the past. My mom stroked my hair when I was sick in the past. I rode the waves in the ocean with my dad in the past. Cutting off the past is cutting off the beautiful. We need those memories. Unfortunately, remembering the beautiful past can inadvertently bring up the bad. Like I said. It is all jumbled up.
I’d like to live right now in the moment. I would like to have fleeting beautiful memories of the past make me nostalgic and happy and then just keep moving forward. But when you have been through a series of tramatic events that last years, time does not always work the way we want it to. Flashbacks bring the bad past to the now. It is unavoidable. Living in the now ALWAYS will involve some of the past if you have been abused because those wires in the brain we cannot always control. People will pop up as reminders, smells will be reminders, and so on. The past simply does not stay in the past because for abuse survivors time is not linear. And living in the moment is not always possible.
I have removed as many known triggers and people that bring about triggers from my past as I can. But as time moves forward, people often pop back into our lives from the past. Time is always moving forward this is true. I work daily on moving forward. It is a conscious and active progression to keep moving forward. But circumstances often out of my control bring the past to the now.
I write about the past to release the past. The bad parts of the past. The beautiful memories that come with the bad past I have sorted through as the years go by. I try to consciously bring the beautiful memories as much as possible as those are always in my control. Each revelation and epiphany I have in my healing journey makes the trauma of the past less raw. As the past will come I don’t push it back there. I actually keep the past in the now until I have processed it and then let it go. As I let it go I can more stay in the now freer of the pain that is holding me back and more embracing the beauty that has always been and always will be the strongest. Light is stronger than darkness. Beauty will prevail from the past, to the future, if we make it so.
So when that red wire fires up with a memory that is painful, I have to take certain steps to not let it hurt me again. I can’t untangle the mess unless I work through it. An example is a picture I stumbled across last week. It had two men in it that abused me in my childhood. I forgot this picture existed! Boom the past thrown right into the now with a thousand emotions and memories to go along with it. One little picture with so many faces, so much betrayal, and so much pain. All of time bunched up in a ball of twisted up wires that not only don’t allow me to be in the now but confuse what the very purpose of the future is. One picture with that much power. Prime example of how time cannot always be linear if you have been abused. Because when I saw that picture, time stopped. I felt all the hands that were on me against my will. I felt all the loneliness of being in that place. I felt in the core of my being the tearing up of my very will to live that was my life back then. I felt everything I felt back then. I looked at all of those faces of people that did nothing to save me. I looked at two pedophiles who are still free men, unprosecuted, and just….time , really just stopped.
There will always be pictures. There will always be those people who did nothing that you will either cross paths in the grocery store or flashback to a memory of them subconsciously. And when those people and memories come we have to go through certain steps that are crucial to our continued recovery. We process the past as it comes to the now so that the future will be endless with possibilities.
What steps did I go through? I did not ignore the past that was now present. I did not ignore the feelings that it evoked. I did not allow the past emotions to cloud my present emotions. In the past these people made me feel betrayed and alone and violated and weak. I felt controlled. But I do not feel that way now. I am stronger now. So although those feelings emerged, I straightened out any confused wires in my brain that would even allow me to think I was that same person. I validated that I am not weak and I am nolonger controlled nor would I allow myself to be controlled by them again. Childhood emotions can feel very real as an adult when they come up intensely and abruptly. We have to validate that we survived those emotions and events and nolonger need to feel them anymore. I purposely looked at each of those faces in that picture and instead of seeing myself as a wounded child, saw myself as a strong and accomplished woman. A fighter. I faced that past systematically and methodically and purposefully. I straightened out all of the fired up and tangled up wires in my brain that were triggered, by feeling and validating those things that were never validated in my past. Then I destroyed the picture. There are people in that picture that never hurt me. I have temporarily allowed those people’s presence at a distance in my life. But with moving forward there always must be awareness! If at any time those people become more of reminders and triggers than a healthy thought, when I see them, then I will need to let them go. I choose who is in my life now. I don’t compromise my happiness for the sake of appeasing others any longer. It is what we must do as survivors.
Time for abuse survivors is not simple. Our brains are complicated with intricate systems of memories. Some of the past is completely blocked. Some of the past reveals itself in little sprinkles here and there when we are caught unaware. Some of the past is a series of flashbacks. Some of the past appears in a shocking bang of lightening. Some of the past WILL come into the now. Each time that happens we have a choice. We can let ourselves feel it, process it, face it, and overcome it. Or we can try and just cut that connection to the past and hope it doesn’t show up again. But it will. I have learned that it will. That child’s memories and emotions are part of us. That child suffered physical and emotional pain. I feel sad for the part of my life in my childhood that was so damaged by sex offenders and monsters. When childhood emotions come that are raw and vulnerable, adult reality needs to be compassionate yet firmly planted and grounded in the now. We have the ability right now to give every part of that violated child a voice of strength and victory over the abuse and pain in the past.
My intention is to live in the now. Life does not always present that as an option. There may be temporary disruptions and curve balls from outside sources and from our own memories. But don’t let those moments turn into setbacks. Don’t let those distractions from the now alter the positive in the future. There is beautiful that is in my past and that beauty is empowering. That beauty is there when I look at my daughter’s face and remember that moment I became a mother. The word “past” does not always have to be associated with all the bad. Some of my most beautiful moments were in the past. I try to remember those as often as I can. Always let the beauty and light remind you of your incredible strength that has been with you all along. That strength was there in the worst moments and in your best. That strength needs to be recognized. We were strong in our pasts. We are strong in the present. We will be even stronger in our futures. It is something all survivors have in common. Nomatter where in time we are, it is something that cannot be altered. We are one in our strength and we are not alone in our journey through time.