• Jess

Your Past Is Not Behind You

Whenever it's hard for me to find words, I stop what I'm doing. It's difficult to find your bearings while you're still moving. It's tough to make meaning of personal and collective pain, of choosing to follow the threads your heart is spinning until things stand still. Your stomach will lurch, your depth perception will lead you astray. Wait until the world is no longer wobbling like a top.

Today, what I have to tell you is look to your past. Overturn the stones, brush the dust off your records and journals, pull out the abandoned paintings, the half-finished sewing or sheet music or whatever your particular passion was. Unfold the crumpled map of you and notice which cities within you have thrived, the rivers that still glide over old stone, the ghost towns that pushed you away from what you had outgrown. See what is still there for you. Find out what is on the other side of what you have forgotten.

I've started packing in preparation for my move. This has meant revisiting and remembering pieces of my past I had forgotten, either deliberately or because I stopped listening for their tune, swept away by the din of what was shiny and new, selkie skins and siren songs. Whether it stays in cardboard boxes in a basement or beats against your chest in a place that doesn't yet smell like home, there is a reckoning, an accounting that must take place when you unmoor yourself and settle somewhere new.

I found playlists of music I had forgotten I loved. Old love letters, concert and plane tickets, my first published works, flash drives, charms and recipes, and in between the lines of journals streaked with nail polish and lipstick smudges and the splashy streak of tears, I found incantations too numerous to count, insisting, pleading, bargaining with the life that I longed for, that it come to me, that it move through timelines to find me.

Prayers and chants and hasty sketches of a heart aching to be close to the water, intimate as a lover with the earth under my feet. I chopped wood and carried water. I gave up many times and renewed my effort many more. And the life I longed for is here now. The timelines have lined up. Sometimes, when we are asking for big magick, it takes time. So much time we can doubt ourselves or think ourselves wrong-headed.

There's much to be said for not looking back because you're not going that way. And also, the beauty of looking back, knowing you're not going that way is that time becomes a telescope, not a microscope and you can see more clearly the sacrifices you made which were worth it, the joy you abandoned too easily, the fears you have stared down, the hefty sail and the wild wind steering you to everything you ached for and weren't sure you were allowed to have.

You are allowed to breathe life into all the parts of your past that carry joy or wisdom or whatever particular blessing you need in this moment. In fact, I encourage it. Resurrection, rebirth, transmutation-- call it what you want-- but there is a skill that is only mastered through baring heart and soul, through tenacity and hope and emotions so primal they rattle your bones-- of wringing something powerful and true from what is tarnished, what has been pronounced unusable, beyond saving.

Anyone can dream a dream or start a fire. Not anyone can untangle the knots of loss and despair, fan the flames of fragile hope gone to dying embers, calling the heartsick and weary back to themselves. You learn it through muscle memory, through trial and error. Mostly error and the occasional success that leaves you stunned. You traverse other worlds for this skill, and rather than steal fire from the gods, you come to understand how to turn your small spark into a brilliant bonfire.

Carry your heart with you. Bring a lantern. Revisit the people you used to be and unearth the gold within them. It belongs to you. It makes your spark brighter. Bring forward the hard won gifts and the unasked for miracles. If your eyes cloud with tears, know they will clear. Remember that we are always moving in spirals, in and out, sometimes clumsily, sometimes gracefully. Look on your past selves with the soft focus of kindness and if you should meet some old version of you in someone else's skin, give a nod and a smile and keep moving forward.

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