The prompt in journaling last week was this:
what do we drag behind us?
It is our past that we drag behind us – each one of us has a heavy load, no matter how many or how few years we have lived.
Heavy is not necessarily “bad”, you know – we may have a bag full of awards and praises, laughter and love, lots of luck, lots of warm fuzzies. Whatever it is, we all have lots of it, and it is heavy.
We think we know ourselves because we have this eclectic collection of verbs and adjectives that we think are inseparable from our very being. And it is true to the extent that because we drag it around behind us everywhere we go, this past is formed into our identity like an ingrown toenail becomes a part of the toe.
I do a lot of leaving in my life. I leave ideas like litter in my wake; I leave thoughts like sticky dust on antique furniture. I leave places and jobs and people; and I leave my stuff everywhere. You’d think that with all the dropping off, discarding, and leaving that I do, I wouldn’t have anything left to drag around. But dragging something is the nature of the human experience; and so I drag my past behind me everywhere I go. I drag ideas into mud puddles and then I drag the muddy mess around until pieces fall off; I drag thoughts over sticky surfaces that tear away small particles of each thought as I tarry onward. Places, jobs, and people, they all become memories that nestle into spaces in my collection of past and I drag them, too, behind me, everywhere I go.
Sherita tells me that when we leave our stuff behind, it means that we really didn’t want to go. As if leaving our stuff is like dropping residue from our very being, we mark our presence. We leave our imprint on the place and the people who shared the space with us. I’ll have to ponder that thought because even though I seldom resist leaving, I’m sure there are many departures I have not embraced joyfully. Perhaps I left my stuff for that very reason…
Anyway, what do we drag behind us? Indeed it is our past. No matter how simply we aim to live, this invisible bag must be dragged along. Even a Tibetan monk drags one. The nirvana attained from emptying his mind and dissolving his entire self into the tiny, unseen parts of the air he inhabits eventually becomes a memory he is destined to drag.
We are not the verbs and adjectives that describe our lives, yet neither can we be separated from them. Because we drag them behind us, they are, for all practical purposes, our identity. Just as the shell that encases our souls is part of what defines us to ourselves and others as long as we walk the earth, so too, does our past.
Ironically, however, these pasts change as we drag them. The very act of dragging alters the shape and even the contents. What was once painfully unbearable becomes a character-building lesson in forgiveness; what was once stupid rebellion is transformed into wise maturity, and what was once anger somehow dissolves. Mistakes and accidents are eventually recalled as blessings in disguise.
Not only does the past change us, but as we move through life, our interpretation of the past changes, so even that which we drag behind is an evolving entity.
I may do a lot of leaving, but I also do a lot of collecting. This thing we all drag behind us is indeed ever-evolving, just as the path that unfolds before us.