It’s a gray day here in Nashville. The kind of day that keeps you contemplative. Remembering. Wondering.
For me, days like today tend to bring up ghosts. My thoughts tend to wander and then fixate on the past, leaving me to contemplate my current situation with decisions I made once upon a time. What’s different? What’s the same? What patterns am I repeating? How have I changed?
This time of year especially.
We’re coming upon the five year mark of it all falling apart. Five years since I knew I had to change and didn’t know how to. Five years since I realized saying “I’m fine” wasn’t cutting it. I live my life in two sections: before then and after then. It’s still not something I can accurately write about, though I’m getting better about talking about it. Sometimes I even forget about it; but I know it’s there. Lingering. Waiting. Haunting.
And for me, my ghosts tend to come in three forms: men, shame, and chances I let pass me by.
Someone I care about deeply and I just ended something. Or maybe we ended nothing. I don’t know. It reminds me of that You’ve Got Mail quote where Kathleen Kelly says, “But I just want to say, all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.” It mattered. Matters. Will always matter.
I could wax poetic about God/the Universe/Beyonce’s timing and how what’s meant to be will always find a way, but whatever. It sucks. Having someone I thought I could rely on and could talk to and having it go away? It sucks. Even though I understand. Even when I’m grateful for every conversation and moment.. Even though I’m the one who first said, “Fuck it. I’m done.” Even though I still think he hung the moon. It sucks, even then.
And it brings up the ghosts of men past. The ones I let treat me as less than. The ones where I settled. The ones I look back and shake my head. The one that was the catalyst to the “after then” part of life.. The ones where I pretended to be something I wasn’t in order not to lose them.
I see my growth. I see my change. I see my unwillingness to be someone I’m not in order to keep someone around. If I’m not for him, then I’m at least a step closer to the one that I am for. I’m grateful for perspective. but regardless, it brings back every cracked open, broken down, jump back as if touching a live wire, exposed part of me that’s fighting to heal. To stay healed. To continue to heal.
When the ghosts of men past come out to say hello, my mind fills to the brim with shame. The deepest, darkest, scariest corners of my brain become overwhelmed with choices I can’t take back. Choices I’m ashamed of. Choices I’ve moved on from and have learned from but am not quite better for. Not yet. Shame is the most terrifying of any ghost, because it seeps into every aspect of life.
Everything we try to hide. Everything we can’t explain. Every moment we want to take back or cringe from or not talk about? It’s all shame. It’s all that voice that tells us there’s something inherently wrong with us. Inherently broken. Not good enough. Undeserving. And not just because of men. But because of everything.
Because of generational pain. Because of other people’s choices. Because of the times I didn’t do better because I didn’t know how to quite yet.
And I know I should reflect on the shame. Feel it, and thank it, and let it go by. But, come on. We all know it’s not that easy. We all know that shame takes us over and tries to pull us under. No one’s immune. In spite of doing the hard work. In spite of feeling all the feelings. It takes our bad dreams and replays them while we’re awake, making us believe it’s reality. And today, I gave into it. I believed it. I sat on the couch with a blanket and a book and no bra and prayed that it would pass.
Chances I Let Pass Me By
I don’t like anything I can’t control. It’s why I don’t take chances. It’s why I don’t do well in relationships. It’s why I procrastinate. I like safety. I like comfortable. But safe and comfortable tend to make me miserable. And yet, I sometimes choose misery over trying something new. Over putting someone out, over doing what’s best for me out of fear of hurting someone else.
So on days like today, when I receive some bummer news and can’t talk to the one person I want to about it, the ghosts of chances passed (see what I did there) come back to haunt me.
Like the time I turned down a job at Johns Hopkins so as to not hurt my nanny family’s feelings by leaving. Or the time I turned down an internship with Disney because I wouldn’t get to spend the summer working at the day camp I committed my time to.
Every time I pretended I didn’t need my parents to show up at an event, because it would take away from another sibling.
Every time I said “I’m fine” when my soul was desperate to claw it’s way out. Each time I turned away an emotion because I didn’t want to be a burden.
I have based every decision I make on how someone else may feel about it.
Sometimes, because of that, I think it’s too late. That maybe I’ve run out of chances. That maybe I need to settle and stay and just accept what is. Even though I know it’s not true. Even though I know every day I wake up is a chance. But sometimes? Well, sometimes, the chances that have passed hold so much more power than the ones that could be.
There’s no pretty bow to wrap up a post like this. No rainbow at the end of a gray day. I can tell you that I’m showing myself grace and sitting with it all…and I’m trying. But that doesn’t mean it’s working. Sometimes the grace and the journaling and the forgiving and the feeling doesn’t work. Sometimes we stay gray and sad and angry.
And I’m not writing this to make anyone feel sad. I’m writing this because I think more people need to know they aren’t alone in feeling this way. In having regrets. In looking back upon what if’s and could haves and should haves. What might have beens and why did I do that’s and what if I did this instead’s.
You don’t have to pull yourself out of it. You don’t have to switch to a positive point of view. You don’t have to do anything at all.
You just have to continue to be.
The gray days and ghosts creep in on all of us and that’s okay.
We will wake up tomorrow and try again. We will push the ghosts back into the corners. We will open the windows and thank God/the Universe/Beyonce for the sunshine, and we will keep going.
Or we will sit in the gray with our ghosts a little longer. And we will keep going.
Because despite every setback, every disappointment, and every regret, we have a purpose and a reason for being here. And we are whole, even in the brokenness of our grayest ghost filled days.
I see you. I hear you. I get it. Me, too.