Old sins cast long shadows. We drag the sins of our past behind us like a leaking, globulous mass of festering pain, across the rough terrain of our journey through life. Some bridges need burning, others should be left intact so we can find our way back to the important stuff if needed. It is in the choosing, that we often set ourselves up for disappointment.
Of course past things never quite seem to stay where we put them. It’s not uncommon to forget where we are going and instead get distracted by nostalgia, to find ourselves heading back across the bridges we have left uncharred, only to discover that all is not what it once seemed.
I think perhaps, we are all capable of allowing the veil of personal history, distort the reality of what we have left behind us. It’s more than a veil. Time is like a hotel cleaner. You wake up, toss aside the covers, finish off the half bottle of water from the night before, spill your coffee, because no one uses saucers anymore, leave your wet towel on the floor, and head out about your day. When you return the room is magically back to how you remembered it, at its best.
We Photoshop our story as we go. We create our own powerful image in contrast to what I was thought in school. We were told that God created man in his own image, when in truth we create ourselves in the image of God. We are never that perfect, but we tinker with the truth to bring us nearer to the best image we can imagine of ourselves, and yet sometimes that still comes up short and therein lays life’s great disappointments. There is nothing that should disappoint us. We are only ever really and truly disappointed in ourselves. What anyone else thinks of us, is really none of our business.
The world it seems has become worse. I watch from a vantage point, increasingly distant from the centre of things as I get older. In vanity and hubris we lose our way. I have never been just a spectator in life. In many ways I have been fortunate to have the emotional energy to have gone after the things I wanted in life. None of the good in my life has come easily to me, and yet I have so much that I can call good in my life. I can only carry the burden I collect along the way. Outside of that I remain a curious spectator.
There is no secret to being happy. You simply have to figure out who you are – and then do it on purpose. We are all empowered to be who we truly want to be. You only give up your power, when you don’t think that you have any.
When I was a small child I couldn’t swim. My dad used to throw me into the water at the beach, to make me man-up a little I guess, but it only served to terrify me even more. I would sit by the seaside refusing to strip to my swimming togs. I wouldn’t even take off my shoes, for I knew he wouldn’t throw me in to the water fully clothed. That was quite a stress for a little waif like me. To add insult to injury, I was made fun of for being such a chicken by everyone else.
My solution? I went to the local swimming pool and over the course of a week, all by my lonesome, I thought myself how to swim among the dive-bombing wildlings who made it almost impossible. I stood in the shallowest end of the pool, one pace from the bar at the edge and made a lunge at the bar. It took me two days to lunge from 2 paces away and at first it seemed I would never make it. I genuinely thought I might drown and constantly checked for the life guard, who never seemed to even notice me. By the time I had made it 4 paces from the edge, I believed in my heart that the floundering, desperate, panicked splashing I engaged in, must have looked to others like an olympian gliding gracefully through the water, and that inspired me to take one step further from the edge.
The day I swam a full width of the pool, I was 10 feet tall. I remember the smile on my face for it was so broad it hurt my cheeks and I felt it. But there was no one there to see my victory. It mattered, but that was just the way of it. I chose to take my private success and run with it any way.
My other great fear was that of the dark. I was still a tiny little scut and my mother understood. She always left some glow of light for me to feel a little more secure, but I hated that fear. I applied my learning to swim lesson and without saying a word to anyone, I would go out to the hall in the dark and leave the landing light off. Stage one was akin to taking one step back from the edge of the pool and I walked half way up the stairs to the landing, very slowly, deliberately forcing myself to face the fear.
I was so afraid let me tell you, but once I hit the half-way point, I would turn my back on the monsters at the top of the stairs and slowly walk back down to the hall without looking back. Once there I would turn and stare the monsters down before turning on the light to check that I was right. There was no monster at the top of the stairs.
Eventually I made it to the top in complete darkness and ultimately to my room and bed. Getting undressed in the dark was terribly unnerving for a small boy waiting for the hand to come out from under my bed and grab me. In a way, I met the monster under my bed. I met him and set him free, for all the monsters I have ever known, have only been inside of me.
Fear is the beast that constrains. Looking back over our shoulders is and exercise in futility. Whatever we think is chasing us will only keep up the chase as along as we encourage it. Close your eyes in the dark to make the darkness go away or open them and embrace your strength to do so.
My problem is my melancholy soul. I should have been a blues singer. Despite my own advice, I don’t burn the bridges I cross; I just keep concentrating on the road ahead of me. I am not tempted by the sirens calling from behind, calling me back to wallow in darker times. Occasionally, I will sit by my river banks and look back from whence I came. I take pictures of the good times and leave the bad times to look after themselves.
My soul means I will always have sad steps to fill, I have learned to live with that, but just like I was when I was that skinny little fledgling, barely heavy enough to hold my footing on a windy day, I know what I must do. On those days when sadness is my monster, I take a step back, turn out the lights and take my leap of faith…
Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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