It would be a lie to say that anyone in this world lives a perfect life.
Every single one of us has a story, one with many pages, each packed with the weight of the words we leave behind. Between every word lives an underlying breath, constant in its pulse. It carries the good, the bad, the glossy and the dull. Everything we tell or withhold can be found there—even the words we erased and the pages we burned.
These discarded parts are the ones that sting the most to read. They send a shooting pain straight to our hearts, so we flip past them, avoiding them at all costs; those words are too heavy to hold. We move on from them…because everyone tells us to do just that.
“It happened. It’s over. Let it go. Leave it behind.”
But those rough pages and all the gruesome words they contain are more than the memories they resurrect; they are the wounds on our hearts.
And how can a wound heal if it never bleeds?
The double-edged phenomenon of moving on from the past comes with its own ache. Letting go of what once hurt us is certainly a vital part of our healing, but only if it follows after a span of time that allowed us to relish in the pain.
At the beginning of any healing process, we wear blinders so that we may keep our eyes on the results we seek. We want to be better, to be free from whatever preceded our realization that change was necessary for our survival. Anything outside of our vision’s parameters seems irrelevant—even the story of how we got there.
So then we work for improvement and eventually we rise. We achieve the progress we believe we need. We move on and continue living, adding more words to more pages, perhaps many of which we will inevitably want to erase and burn just like the ones we left in the past.
But something is missing. All the promises of healing and peace never seem quite fulfilled, so we freeze. We wonder why it isn’t working.
The words stop dead in their tracks; the page cannot be finished. We can’t continue.
We get stuck in the unexpected pause of the story, motionless in our confusion; the obscurity deepens, our intuitive voice whispering we must go back before we can move forward.
We must bleed before we can heal, but we never willingly address that part. However, this isn’t a matter of what we want; it’s what we need. We must backtrack and open the wounds we worked so hard to close, because we never really healed them in the first place.
We never gave them time to bleed.
When the wounds close prematurely, they are doomed to become the words of our stories that strike us with pain. They are the pages we flip past without giving them so much as a second glance, only to tear them out and burn them as soon as we catch the frightening flash of their memories. But they never go away; words linger in the air and wounds leave scars.
We come to a standstill in our stories because sometimes we forget to breathe those words while they’re still hot and feel those wounds while they’re still fresh. We’re in too much of a rush to leave them behind.
But the only way we can ever truly heal is if we let even the ugliest words and pages remain. As horrible as they may be, they belong in our stories; as repulsive as any wound may appear, the scar it leaves becomes a part of us that needs to be there.
So let it be there. Feel the pain. Explore the depth of the wound. Remember why it’s there and accept it as a piece of your story.
Read every word on every page. No editing allowed. Keep it all.
And once the wounds heal, we can move on from the pages of our stories that put them there—from whatever haunts us. We can let go of the pain from the past without erasing the words it contributed.
We can accept those words as the past from which we gracefully continue writing. We can strengthen them to be the pages that precede the best part of our stories—the present.
We can close our wounds in a way that empowers us. They can complete us.
We can heal—forward-moving, ever-learning, always telling our stories.
But not before we bleed.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Andrea Charpentier/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo Credit: Elephant Archives