We all have one. Whatever our past is made up of – good and/or bad – it shapes us. It doesn’t have to define us, but it certainly affects who we are as an individual. We can succumb to the direness of our bad situations, we can forget how wonderful our lives truly are, we can suppress the aches of unfairness or rise above it all and be better for it.
There’s always a trigger, though. Recently, someone said something to me – in jest – but the tone of how it was said shot me back to a horrible memory. I know it was nothing more than a joke on their part and they had no idea what had happened when I clammed up – unable to say anything else for the memory that was playing in my mind. My peripheral vision blurred. A metallic taste overcame my mouth. A shot of adrenaline coursed through me at warp speed, reminding me of a moment that I had put in my mental filing cabinet that I had no intention of ever revisiting – even to purge. I felt bad because my reaction threw this person off. If only they had requested a CARFAX report on this particular model of Sarah, they would have known my entire history, thus avoiding the awkward moment altogether.
But it’s not that easy to catalog the wrecks of our human psyche. We are all a different make and model. Some of us can weather any storm. Some of us just need a better pair of tires to get us through. Some of us require premium gas where others can survive on the lowest grade available. It’s important to remember who we are and what makes us run, but we cannot discount those who care for us. If we’re letting someone drive, they have to take the time to clear the windows and inflate the tires or they’re not going to get our maximum performance.
And why are there some of us who will let just anyone drive? My transmission has been stripped so many times. I’ve rebuilt my engine over and over again. And there have been times that I’ve allowed myself to rust. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming anyone for my situation or how I feel. I am ultimately in charge of that. But when you allow people to treat you poorly, well, it’s a hard habit to break. As Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina, “There are no conditions to which a person cannot grow accustomed.” This statement rings so true. I had to figure out how to live with my son’s diagnosis. I’m having to learn how to live my life as a single person. And I figured out – as a child – how to live with people abusing me. I can’t say that I did it right, but I’m proud that I have used my past experiences to become the person I am today.
My ex-husband used to say that I kept a “book of personal harms” in my mind – just like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rainman. He’s right to some degree – I do have that mental filing cabinet I mentioned above. I’ve stored a lot of heartaches and poopy memories in there. And I usually keep it to myself. Because when I open up to people, when I let them in and tell them who I am and what I’ve experienced, they often find a way to use it against me. They start to see me as a lemon. Okay… even I’m getting tired of the car analogies. 🙂
I AM BROKEN. But there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts. My kind of love isn’t for everyone. I am sarcastic and quirky and guarded and funny and wounded and smart. I tend to hide when I don’t know what else to do. If you cut me down, I’m quick to believe you. But I’ll eventually figure out that you’re wrong and find someone else to drive (sorry, it just seemed to flow. Last one, I promise.)
I may have let a lot of people/events own me during my lifetime, but it’s made me who I am. Don’t judge. Don’t ridicule. Don’t hate. You have a history, too, and my plan is to love you for it.
Even if I have a difficult time doing so.