Excavating the Past

I’ve spent the day sorting through the stuff in my jam-packed room. Because I won’t have any boxes for packing until this evening, this whole sorting process was frustrating. I suppose it didn’t help any that I had a crabby baby to take care of as well.

After she left, I came into my room with the intention of continuing the process, but suddenly a wave of exhaustion hit. As I snuggled beneath my bed-covers, my eyes grew heavy with drowsiness. Just when sleep was about to overtake me Sadness climbed in beside me, wrapped her arms around me good and tight, and immediately I felt tears stinging my eyes.

“What?” I wondered grumpily. “What is it now?”

Images floated through my tired brain: my granddaughter knocking on my bedroom door, forgetting that I no longer live here. This hurt, but not as much as I would have thought. Perhaps because I already did my grieving over leaving her a couple of months ago when I thought we were all going our separate ways. But if not grief at leaving her, then what?

As I wrote in an earlier post, sometimes Sadness serves a purpose. Sometimes it befalls her to point out to us what we would not see on our own. No sooner had I experienced the mental image of my granddaughter than it hit me: I’ve felt like this before. A long, long time ago. Like Alice in Wonderland, I felt myself falling into the rabbit hole. Felt myself shrinking as I wandered in my mind back to the most painful era of my childhood.

The most emotionally painful move of my life occurred during my 7th year. I know I’ve written about that before, about the heartbreak of losing my dad and brothers overnight, of stumbling around shell-shocked with no sense of direction or identity. But if I’ve ever made this particular connection before, I don’t remember it: that feeling of intense dislocation and disorientation, mingled with ineffable grief is what I go through every time I relocate. Every time. Grief overwhelms me. Doesn’t matter if I want to move, and even anticipate it. There is inevitably a period of grieving, lasting hours, days or months.

Look at this, Sadness whispered. See it for what it is. Feel the weight of that heartbreak and run your hands over its texture. Smell its distinctive, slightly musty scent and allow yourself to accept that you feel its weight and texture, and smell its scent every time you move. And I did. I wrapped my emotions around the memory, wide awake now with the wonder of this decades long overdue understanding.

And that’s not all of it, I realized. It’s not the moving into, but the moving away from that hurts. Because when mom relocated all of her children after leaving their father, it was the thought of leaving him behind which was unbearable for me.

When you were 15, another move occurred, Sadness prompted me. Ah, yes. The move into alleged freedom. The move from under my stepfather’s dreary roof to live with my real father, after 8 years of no contact. But why should that hurt? That was a good thing, even if I didn’t know that my stepdad’s abuses would haunt me for a lifetime.

Because, Sadness whispered, because you were leaving behind your barely acknowledged bedraggled dreams of your stepfather loving you in a pure way. Saying goodbye to that forever, and to the hope that your mother would do something, move in your direction to save you. And, she concluded, because you would no longer be under their thumbs, threatened with dire consequences should the truth be told. And there out in the real world anything could happen. With all that freedom beckoning, you could recklessly spill the beans to one and all. And then what? Why, the sky might fall!I don’t know (it’s too soon to tell) if any of this knowledge will quell this aching grief during future moves. Maybe, maybe not. But just knowing what there is about moving away from that so disheartens me must be of some value. If nothing else it reassures me that I’m not some kind of dysfunctional freak who feels things way too intensely for no reason whatsoever. And that’s enough, for now. For now I can live with that.


(I’m excavating my past, one heap of old man’s rubble at a time.)

One thought on “Excavating the Past

  1. ah moving. and sadness. dreamer, it might interest you to know that a certain amount of sadness over moving is quite normal. perhaps you feel elements that go way beyond the norm, as i suspect. some of those elements regard specifics that were connected to those certain moves, and not merely the moves them selves. but to a point, there will always be a certain sadness to moving, simply because you are leaving the familiar to which you have some attachment, and that is a loss of sorts. even when we leave a bad thing, we feel the loss of the familiar. funny creatures, we.

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