The pictures on this post are not the most beautiful. The lighting is off. They are not staged. I took them bleary eyed from 16 hours of driving.
In my parents house there is a red circle suitcase from the 1960s. This suitcase is fabulous - it's in impecable condition, the lock works, the little grid inside to keep the clothes folded and the shoes in place is perfect. I don't travel with it, though. Instead I have every single journal and a few other things like photographs or articles, papers or stories, that I wrote crammed into it. It barely shuts.
I can't take it home with me. Every time I go out there I intend to, but I sit there, locked in a freezing room by myself. I take out the journals and I lay them out in order, from 1997 to 2009, and I go through them carefully. It is ritual. And just like a ritual, I do this over and over, any time I am home. I collect my life story, read it, try to make sense of it.
As I read I remember, remember. I remember the confusion I had as a kid, the world making no sense to me. I see the shifts in my political and theological thinking. I watch myself grow up from a tired and exhausted 12 year old, a child that needed so much more than what the world I was in could give me to a teenager who felt absolutely stifled. I get to read the words I wrote in college, when I flew away from anything and everything I ever knew and I can recollect the desperate bid I made to try to heal up.
And then, mostly, I stopped writing. Because I didn't need it, because I was not dripping heartache any more. I was not shackled like I had been. I mostly stopped crying. I grew up, made friends, defined myself and learned to quell the bitterness, even forgive as best I could.
And when I'm done walking through my past I shove the journals back into the suitcase. I push the lock into place and snap it shut. I put it away somewhere safe because those pages seem real to me, they breath my many names, even the ones that I have mostly forgotten.
And I remember, again, and again, that I will do anything to never hurt that badly again. Anything.