A Lesson About the Past

When I first started this blog, it took me a while to come up with a fitting name for it. After entertaining several equally cheesy ideas, I landed on the current tag line: Finding my Freedom, Doing my Life. The title, albeit a little cheesy, encompasses the entire point, discovering more and more freedom from spiritual trauma everyday while just carrying on with my day to day life, then writing about it. I know other people have experienced similar feelings and situations, and sometimes it is just nice to know you really aren’t crazy, others have walked the same path. Or, maybe we are all crazy and normal is just a mirage we all foolishly continue striving for. Who knows? In any case, I pledged to be open and honest about sharing experiences whether they be uncomfortable or silly because it seems I find freedom and learn things about myself while doing the mundane all of the time.

But the name of the blogsite really hit home for me this past week. If you have followed me for any length of time, read my book, or know me personally, you know my family is big on yearly vacations. Particularly vacations to any Disney destination. We have so many special family memories there, it is difficult for us to vacation anywhere else! My kids have practically grown up doing Disney “right” and aren’t shy about sharing their knowledge with others. Just today, my son spent almost an entire hour advising an adult on how to plan their upcoming trip! And let me tell you, at thirteen, the kid knows his stuff!

With all of the mess of 2020, vacationing was a huge deal for us this year. We all needed the mental break, and believe me when I say we did our research, took precautions, and weighed out the best options to take our trip as responsibly as possible. Sometimes, for your mental health, you just have to get away! And this trip did not disappoint, it was glorious! We spent Thanksgiving on a beach and cyber Monday at a Disney park. Just the reset my brain needed!

I say all of this to get to my point: sometimes while simply “doing my life” I still come across things that may trigger me or sometimes blow my mind at the grace of God. Being incredibly transparent right now, the former is exactly what happened on vacation.

Everyone in my family (except for me) are Star Wars fans, so you can imagine the excitement level when we were lucky enough to get to ride the new Star Wars ride at Disney! I was excited too, but let’s be honest, probably not as much as my husband or my kids. Anyway, I was mindlessly walking through the attraction taking notice of all of the intricate details Disney, as always, puts into their shows and rides and then bam! I suddenly found myself utilizing grounding techniques I have learned from different therapists throughout the years. I was triggered by a Star Wars ride! Insert hand to head slap!

If you read my book, Free, you may remember me mentioning a recurring dream I had as a child and even into my adult years. In this dream I am standing in a room in the middle of a crowd of stick figure people. I am screaming at them to talk to me or pay attention in the slightest and they are all ignoring me, standing with their arms folded over their chests and noses in the air. I am a believer in dreams, and this one haunted me so much, I still get goose bumps thinking about it. I think it accurately represents my childhood and even church life; always feeling like the outsider, and always super insecure. Feelings of loneliness and isolation flood back to my body when I think about this.

So, as I was nonchalantly walking through a room with several storm trooper animatronics looking at me, I suddenly got a rush of anxiety. Here I was, literally standing in my dream in real life. I started to panic. Do you have any idea how hard it is to use grounding techniques in such an immersive ride experience? Let me tell you, it is difficult! I could feel a panic attack coming on and I had no where to go. I was able to calm myself after taking deep breaths, closing my eyes and using my other senses, and eventually leaving that room, but I learned something about myself. I was strong enough to get past those intense feelings, yet still vulnerable enough to have the experience in the first place.

Sometimes, I like to lie to myself and pretend my past is no longer a part of me. But guess what? It is always there. In many ways, I have found freedom from it while doing my life, yet at the same time, it is still there, lurking in the crevices of my inner being and occasionally it likes to rear it’s head at the most inopportune times. This is part of the learning experience, being prepared to handle these feelings. I have to learn to embrace my past, learn to be thankful for it. I mean honestly, my past is what made me who I am today. While I am far from perfect, I am growing and learning, and that is the important part.

I think there is a certain balance of not living in the past, but acknowledging the wisdom gained from your experiences. I don’t think I’m there yet. Experiences like the “Star Wars incident of 2020” (that is what I am calling it) tell me I have not mastered this skill. It also makes me wonder if one can ever completely master it. Maybe this is part of the mirage of normalcy I mentioned earlier. It is definitely a tight rope walk, but I guess that’s the beauty of it. Falling off the tight rope every once in a while sure does keep me humble, and soon this experience will be in my past as well, and I will be able to remember it less painfully.

As Rafiki in the Lion King says, “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

He makes a wise point. And I mean, who can argue with a monkey from a classic Disney movie?

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