I find myself wondering more and more often: how will we ever be able to look back to the future?
How will we tell the stories of our lives? Will we remember things with fondness? Will we be able to laugh at all that has happened between us? Will we ever be able to revisit the painful moments with positive reflection? Will we have anything good to say about it all?
Family is so much focused on retelling.
Sat around the Christmas table, the best man’s speech, pouring over the family album. Each gathering prompts the spilling out of all the personal tales; the moments that made us proud, the embarrassing stories that make us who we are. The successes, the mistakes. The serious and the funny. The adventures, the times shared. The events that make us grow weave a shared past that knits us together without edges or seams. Families explore each other, and gain understanding into how and who we came to be. We laugh, we cry, we get lumps in our throats; we share. All of it.
But how will our future family navigate that retelling? Will we remember all the things we did together differently, and not as shared? Will we be able to spin yarns about our family’s tapestry without hurting each other with the painful truths that underpin each and almost every event? And how about the parts of our family history that we didn’t share together? The years before we met? How will we find shared meaning in those huge, gaping holes?
Will I ever be able to laugh at the memory of things that – beneath the understanding, and the empathy, and the therapeutic parenting – still felt so hurtful? Will I ever be able to talk about my Love without feeling the sting of sword hidden amongst the pinions*? Without hurting her more? Will she? Will honesty in recounting the events of our lives ever be appropriate, or allowed? Will we ever be able to reflect back on our lives together with anything close to the truth? Will we simply leave out all the trauma from every tale, or dare to open Pandora’s Box on the pain we invoked in each other? Will our memories of events always be tormented by shame (and will our retelling always reopen old wounds, unearth new ones, or create new layers of pain)? Will these ghosts of our past and our present inform the way we can look back on our lives in the future … forever?
When every story we have comes with a dark side of trauma, will we dare to look back to the future at all?
And perhaps worse; in the future, will we even be together to reflect at all?
*thanks Kahlil Gibran