I had a dream last night that involved being in a very cramped, crowded apartment with a lot of people, some of whom may have been relatives. But I didn't really recognize these people as much as knew I was attached to them for some reason. After living in some kind of squalor--everything was a mess, boxes and artwork(?) everywhere--I learned I could leave. I packed up just about everything I could, but when I turned to look back on the apartment, a child--mine?--was standing on a bed, screaming. I knew that this child was somehow damaged, somehow disabled in some way, but even as I knew that the noise must be horrible for everyone in the apartment and surrounding apartments and for the child him or herself, and even though I knew that somehow this child was my responsibility, I left anyway.
This morning, I realized that while I could make my interpretation much more specific to my life, it feels to me about how we often have to leave the past. For me, the past is a screaming child standing on a bed, waving her hands. Here I am. Pay attention to me. Remember me and console me and think about me at all times. I am all you can focus on. Don't think you can leave. Don't think you can go anywhere without me bleating in your ear.
We love to sit in the past, writing about it. We love to read about the past, ours and others'. I spent about an hour thinking and researching John Adams and his life after watching an episode of the HBO special about him. We love to talk about what happened to us and how it changed and shaped up. We complain to others who were in the past with us about how we were treated or how things fell out in a certain way. We are told that if we can't learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it. We bitch and moan and stay in the past so long, we might as well have never left it.
In my dream, I decided that I could leave the screaming child. I knew that the people in the apartment would deal with it. I knew that I was being allowed to leave. So I did.
We can't help but have a past, the things that made us who we are. These are important in terms of who we are. And we mine these things for riches, looking for that which we can use up here, in the present. But if we hunker down with the screaming child, sit on the bed and try to console her, we will forget about the journey we are trying to make. We will forget about the packed bags and the plans. We will sit and wait for the child to stop screaming. But since the past cannot be changed, the child will go on and on and on. All you can do is stay. Or leave.
Some of this line of thought came from reading a review this weekend of a book whose title I can't remember. Instead of trodding down a poor-me scenario, detailing a series of abuses, this memoir was about the writer's mother and how she and her mother used to shop--about how this writer fumbled badly toward the present and what she is doing here now.
Maybe she didn't have a series of abuses to write about, but I know that I am done as a reader with the series of abuses memoir. I found that the writers used the series as self definition. I am a survivor of.... I am a victim of . . . .I made it through X and I blame Y.
We all are survivors of something. Here we are. And yes, to write about things once hidden is important, especially if we can change the present and keep other people from going through that same series of events. But in a lot of ways, I want to be like my dream. I want to acknowledge the screaming child and know that I listened as long as I could and then moved on, suitcase (full of what will be useful for me on my trip) in hand, ready for what is to come next.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org