By Jena Schwartz
The habit of looking back, the obsessive thinking, the going over and over what’s over and done – these are the hardest parts of the mind to adjust in choosing to live here and now.
I know, because this has been my eminent domain – my mind like a tyrannical government constantly overtaking my most intimate memories and twisting them into evidence against me, holding me accountable for crimes for which I already served my time, reminding me I will never be perfect or pure.
It is a form of purgatory to live like this, an addiction to pain and suffering that would have me never believe I deserve freedom, happiness, and peace. A Sisyphean fate from which there is no exit, no escape, a mind so enjambed by its own crowded, maddening network of roads and rutted-out ditches that to live there is, in a word, hell.
How, then, does one – do I – adjust my posture? The body has never been anywhere but here and now, even as “here and now” are moving targets, never the same for more than a breath, impermanence embodied. Oh, darling. To ask “how” is already to miss the mark. Instead, try this: Say “stop.” Say it a second time and a third after that. Breathe in deeply, then breathe out deeply. Repeat this several times.
For these moments, know that you are already answering an ancient, unwritten question, one that is passed down from one generation of women to another not orally but through the breath, through birth and breast, through eyes and skin and separation and rage and grief and elation and becoming. This arrival is your birthright and you’ve never been lost, after all.
It won’t be easy. Your mind will protest. It will set up tent cities in canyons of what happened before, refusing to budge. You will have to be steadfast in your commitment to staying with yourself, your here self, your now self, your you-know-deep-down-what’s-really-true self. Clarity will flash bright and fleeting as lightning during a violent storm. In the morning, you will feel spent.
But a time will come when the moments of forgetting to look back come closer together, lasting just a bit longer, like contractions. This is your passage. You are both witness and vessel for your own deliverance. You will want to choose your midwives carefully, or perhaps you will labor alone in the woods, in the water, in the empty room where you spent all night sweeping out the ghosts and washing the walls with white rags.
Let her come. Let her roar, make such a noise that you don’t recognize her as yourself. Let the breaking open overtake you because there is no holding back birth, and something must always die first to make room. Collect the treasures from your past and throw them with open palms to sky. Cry out and claim this moment that could only be yours, could only happen here, could only occur now that you are listening hard, now that your heart is ripe, now that you’ve stopped believing those who would doubt you, most of all your own mind.
You have always been meant for this. You’ve been waiting for yourself all along. And here you are. You are here, now. New and ancient and wet and wild-eyed and ready. Ready for life. Ready for power. Ready for joy. Ready to experience what it is to be yourself.
And to think: This is just the beginning.
Image: “Vintage Typewriter” by Memphis CVB via Flickr.
Jenna, this is so lovely. I’m sure I am not the only reader of your essay who sees herself inside it. Thank you.