I sort through the vestiges of a past life. A fifth grade report card. Figure skating trophies. A yellowed love letter. Photographs.
I have literally carried this box of memories with me for miles. I have moved at least 15 times since graduating from high school. How many creaky steps have a I slugged up with these relics in my arms? How many shelves have they sat on, gathering dust?
Some things I’m keeping, some things I’m throwing. But even what I keep doesn’t hold me anymore. These artifacts tell a story that today seems of little consequence, the story of a young person who no longer exists. My mother’s death is the red smudge on my timeline. It it is the plot twist, it is the sentinel event. What came before is the story of someone else. I don’t dislike this person, but she isn’t me anymore.
Terry Tempest Williams wrote in Refuge that losing her mother released her from her optimism. I used to be someone that furiously planned, incessantly dreamed, a person hypnotized by the promises of the future and happy endings. But then life happened. I have said I do, and later I won’t. I have watched my mother get sick and die. My missteps and a few macabre twists of fate have cost me dearly, in every way. I have tasted the bitter knowledge that all my dreams won’t come true, can never come true.
But here is the thing- joy isn’t sequestered in some future date, nor is it bound up in the past. Joy is neither encased in romantic love, nor unlocked only by achievement. It simply is, and it is right here for the taking. So I find my salvation in the now. I am not mesmerized by a past which is no more, and I refuse to be transfixed by whispered promises that lie beyond the horizon. I hold my memories loosely, so as to not get too attached to things which are no more. I am released from the bounds of optimism. I no longer subscribe to the blind faith that things will get better (even if sometimes they do). I no longer practice the religion of anything that pulls me away from the present moment. Which gives me the space to relish the earth beneath me, the sky above me.
The now is the only place where I find peace.