I don’t know who said this quote or made it famous…some wise philosopher, probably. All I know is that it seems relevant to just about anyone, in just about every state of life. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the past — what could have been, what should have been, what was…the list can go on and on.
I spent all day and night last night in Corvallis. I had my last final of the term this morning, and then set off back home.
“Home” is such a weird concept. It can have so many different meanings depending on who you’re talking to, and it changes throughout different stages of life. What I consider my home is so much more than four walls and a roof. My mom’s always worked so hard to make our physical house feel like a home, but I have to admit, it hasn’t always felt that way. During the tumultuous years surrounding my parents’ split, our house did not feel like a home. It was filled with tension, and terrible memories, and anger and frustration and lies. I couldn’t wait until my mom and brother and I could move out. Then of course, as soon as we had, I longed to return to that place I’d spent my childhood. I missed the feel of the smooth wooden banister underneath my fingertips, for the solitude I found in my bedroom, when I could wake up in the morning and look out my oversized bedroom and see our neighbor’s horses peering into our backyard. I spent months refusing to drive down Burton road, because it hurt that much to see the entrance to what had once been my neighborhood, my oasis, my home. And what hurt even more, was seeing another family move in, their young children playing on the playground we’d left behind, hosting summer barbecues out by the pool, knowing they were painting over my hot pink walls because their boys surely wouldn’t want that, imagining the murals of my dogs with my swim medals hanging out of their mouths being coated over with primer…
It was a lose-lose situation. When we were there, I wanted out. I felt trapped. The emotions were just too strong to stay in the place where my whole world had been turned upside down. But as soon as we were out, I desperately wanted back. What I wanted back wasn’t what was, it was what I’d wished could be. I wanted to return to that home as eight-year old Bridgette, the one who had never experienced pain or loss, the one whose biggest fear was a spider crawling into her bed at night. I didn’t want back to what it had become.
We moved into many houses after the one off of Burton road. Ironically, the first one was only two minutes away. That ended up being both a blessing and a curse; at times, it was a little too close for comfort, but also, it carried with it a sense of familiarity. After Belle court was the house on Filbert street, and subsequently the one on Kearney, where we are now. I will say, this is the first one that’s felt like home to me, in the same way that my childhood home did. It’s really interesting, too — because less than a month after we moved in, I left for college. I’m not sure what it is about it, though I think part’s got to be that my mom was able to purchase it, as opposed to renting the others, that’s made it feel so much more like home than the others. Now, as I prepare to pack up my bedroom to move to my new home, in Corvallis, I wonder what will become of this new home. Memories of a home have feelings that last forever, and I can only hope and pray that the choices I make in this new one will be positive. I don’t want this home to become another place I hesitate to drive by in five years, fearful of the memories that will return. I want this home to be full of honesty, of laughter and joy, of communion and friendship. So far, that’s what it’s been. My greatest prayer for my return to Corvallis this summer, is to keep it that way.
As much pain and grief as losing my childhood home caused me, I still have a dream of buying that house back. I have a dream of my mom being able to live and retire there, and my and my brother’s kids and my mom’s grandkids being able to dive off the same diving board, swing around the same banister that we once did. My heart still wants what my head doesn’t.
What I think I’ve learned from all of this, is how much our memory warps things the way it wants them to be remembered. As much as I still ache to return to our home in Lakeshore Estates, the one my parents remodeled from the ground up, that held birthday party after birthday party, that my grandma’s ashes are in the backyard of, I know in my head that I didn’t feel that way towards the end of our time living there. I know it in my head, but not in my heart. Similarly, is the way I feel about Oregon State. My memories there are such a mishmash of feelings that I’m still not quite sure how to process it. The initial intent in me returning this spring term, two days a week, was to get re-acclimated on campus, and see if I could handle it. To see if all the awful memories of destructive behavior came rushing back to me each time I took the exit off I-5 for Corvallis, or if it felt like the wonderful experience I’d known it could be. The experience I wanted it to be.
Eleven weeks later, the end of my first term back in school, I’ve come to a conclusion that there’s not really an easy answer. I do still get those feelings most times I turn onto Highway 34. Not every time, but most times. I’m still a little uneasy when I walk into Dutch Bros., and I’ve yet to step foot into the gym. Each time I do one of those things though, it gets easier. I create new memories.
“Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.”
The reason I chose this quote to title this post, is that last night I did two things that were really hard for me. They were “firsts” for me in recovery. They both brought back memories, and I had to remind myself numerous times that, while I may have done them destructively in the past, I’m doing them differently now. I’m creating new memories, and I don’t need to set my focus on the old, poor ones I made.
Firstly, I went to a class called Barre3 with Maddie. I really enjoyed it, and actually did okay mentally despite the large mirrors on the wall and number of girls surrounding me in skin-tight clothing. I was able to use the 3 lb. weights, too, which I was pretty proud of (and attribute to my lifting). Okay, after reading that I realize that 3 lbs sounds SO light and it probably reads a little funny that I was proud of that. But if you don’t know what Barre3 is, it’s a VERY repetitive class that focuses on working small muscles over and over again, and the highest weights they even offer is 4 lbs! They recommended beginners start with 1 lb. Rebellious me, though, went with 3…so I felt pretty good about it 🙂 This was my first workout class since being in recovery, and it felt good to switch up my routine a little bit and do something fun with a friend. It’s also funny to think about, because the ONE other time I’ve been to Barre3 (also with Maddie), a little over a year ago, I left thinking that it was a “fine” workout, but I would never commit to doing it because there’s no way it burned the same number of calories as my cardio regimen did. I then went home that evening and proceeded to Dixon, where I did my two-hour routine on the treadmill, elliptical, and exercise bike. It’s just funny because yesterday, the Barre3 workout was probably the most I’ve sweat in six months! And the hour-long class was longer than the workouts I’ve been doing, which are, of course, only lifting weights, and limited to 30 minutes. Oh, how the tables have turned!
Secondly, I went to Market of Choice. That store, especially in Corvallis, is probably second to Dixon (the gym) and, ok, my old apartment, in terms of the most triggering places for me. They’re where I engaged in the most unhealthy behavior and where the eating disorder ran the most rampant. If I had it my way, I wouldn’t return to any of the above places. Ever. But I know that if I followed that mindset, I wouldn’t make much progress…so I dragged Maddie there with me after our class. (Actually, I explained the situation to her and asked if she’d be willing to accompany me, and she was more than willing to.) Walking back in there brought back SO many memories. I don’t even want to recount them on here, to be honest. But we went in there, engaged in conversation the whole time so I wouldn’t get too lost in my head, and made our purchases and left. It was fine. And now, the next time I go back, it might be just a little bit easier.
And who knows? Maybe eventually I’ll be able to go alone 🙂
p.s. I apologize for how all over the place this post is…I’m just going to blame it on finals and leave it at that