I am standing in the shower. A mosaic of pea green tile under my feet. The sun of a hot, Florida day streaming in through the glass-blocked window beside me. Water streams down upon a body I have worked hard to win back after birthing my first child. In a matter of minutes I am flooded with memories I would rather forget. Guilt, shame, and loss swell my heart and the bucket tips over. Tears pour from me nearly as fast as the water from the showerhead. I push back at the memories. I want to grab them with both fists, punching and screaming Get Back. Go Away. I don’t want you here.
My breathing is quick and I gasp. I crumple on the tile floor, wilting under the pressure of these memories. My life is remarkably sweet these days. There are few cares and worries. I spend my days with a red-haired boy who brings enormous joy and laughter to the space all around him. That he was the grand surprise of my life is never forgotten. He has set the course of a timeline I am still amazed and excited to call my own.
But the memories remain. When they pinch me I am alone. I don’t know how to be alone. I don’t know how to inhabit the memories and let them run their course. I don’t know how to accept the life I’ve lived before the life I know now. I am ashamed of the person I was for so many years, of the heartbreak that I’ve put my family through. I don’t know how to accept that my father has died and will never know how I’ve recovered from being that girl I was in the moment of his unexpected death. I don’t know how to explain to my husband and my child what his loss means to me. I don’t know how to feel everything completely without melting into the memories and getting lost. Again.
On this day I figure it all out. The sound of the running water begins to calm me. The sun drifting between the drops spreads light through me at a time when I am caught in darkness.
I cannot wish it all away. I cannot fight back. If I do, I am wishing away a part of myself that would change the course of this timeline I’m so happy to have. If I fight back I am only going to get smaller.
And so I rise. I stand under the stream and I let the first memory that comes take hold of me. I wish I could write here about the thoughts that fill my mind on that day in the shower. But I cannot. Not yet. Because while I can now claim these memories as my own, I still shake under their pressure, and they are too much to acknowledge here in this place. So please forgive me the lack of details. Please know that I do long to trust you, as much as I’ve come to trust myself and the fact that I can live through this. The remembering. And I can.
I’ve always had an affinity for water, and I’m not sure if that’s it, or if it’s simply the fact that when I am showering I am alone and confined, but this is still the time when my memories come. Always. Every shower. They come. They grip. They toss me. But I no longer fight back. Because on that day–and it is very clear in my mind–I learned to become a part of those memories. To let them fill me up and then wash away again. But not to take control.
I have read but one piece on Memory so far. In three minutes, Heather wrote something that took me years to understand. My guess is that it’s taken her years as well. We are all of our pasts at once. All of the different people we have been–in one lifetime–have come together to make us what we are today. And in denying the memory of those painful moments, we deny the happiness we now seek and acknowledge in our own lives.
There is not one single day that goes by that I don’t think about my father. Not one day. I imagine one of my boys on his knee while he watches the Kentucky Derby. I imagine him tossing a baseball with my oldest son, preparing him for the season. I imagine him taking an interest in my husband’s new business and nodding respectfully at the man with whom I’ve chosen to spend my life and raise my babies. But most of all, I imagine him wrapping his arms around me and telling me that he is proud. And it hurts. Boy, does it hurt.
I cannot push it away anymore. Any of it. Under the heat of that shower on another sunny, Florida day it all fell into place. I figured out how to understand memory. The good and the bad of it. I cannot tinker with time. Take things back, wish them away, relive them. And I don’t want to anymore. I am a product of the lives I have lived before. So the memories will push and pull me, and I will let them, but I will not dwell. They will fill me up and then fall away again. And knowing this, accepting this, living this way, leaves my heart more room to focus on creating the best memories I can today, in the here and the now. Because this is the only time I have any control over. And I vow to myself that I will do the best job I can with that.