Death, shedding an old skin to embody something new, churns stuff up.
Death, in the form of change, releases into my consciousness old memories, emotions, and “stinkin’ thinkin’” from the past. It’s uncomfortable and disruptive. When I close my eyes to rest, dimly lit memories play in my mind. I hear the messages loud and clear, “You are immature and insecure. You are foolish. No good will come of you. No good will you experience. No good is your value.” I feel the memories in my body and emotions as if they are current and real.
They aren’t and they are.
The messages come from pained parts of me requesting my attention in the only way they can. As I shed old patterns or habits to practice something new and good for my life, the past begs to remain part of who I am. “Tend us,” the memories say. “Care for us as we have not been cared for before.” “Bring us with you.”
Death would be more pleasant if I could leave the past behind me, delete it, taking only the lessons, spelled out in all caps and bolded, like crisp text. But my memories are more than tidy lessons. My past is stitched into my nervous system informing how I feel, react, and respond to current stimulus. Loosed from the memories, these sensations make no sense, they are meaningless pain, which I don’t know how to alleviate. Change that heals, change that lasts, requires some connection to the past.
Death is a body of work that includes loving attention to the past. For me, that means deliberate and intentional practices to see and comfort old parts of myself. I imagine there are a variety of ways to do this. I’m using a combination of morning pages to get my insides out where I can see them and resting cozily with a hot water bottle to comfort my body at night.
Has anything been shook loose while you were making significant changes in your life? How do you attend to those pieces?