Flashbacks. I’m no stranger to them. They are powerful and can alter my entire day if I allow it. Normally, when I experienced them; some not so great memories in my life creep up leading to panic attacks, tears, and feelings of fear.
Oddly, I’ve been having flashbacks or reoccurring memories of things that are not fearful and actually seemed nonsignificant to me when they first arose. One particular memory has kept popping up when I try to sleep. It’s vivid and colorful. That’s the thing about flashbacks, they can feel as real as the moment you were there and the line between reality and the memory start to blurr.
What’s been on my mind more than the memory itself is thinking about why it’s popping up. There’s usually a trigger or some underlying emotion that I haven’t dealt with that brings them up. Since this memory is not upsetting, why?? What was it telling me about myself or what I’m needing emotionally?
The flashback always starts in the same place. I’ve just graduated from college, back in my hometown and happen to be driving by my old boyfriend’s house with Nolan in the car. Nolan was about 8 months old at the time. I remember driving by and wondering how he was and having this insatiable urge to visit. I hadn’t talked to “Sam” in a few years so stopping by wouldn’t have been expected. I circled the block a couple times toying with the idea in my mind. Why would I stop by? What would I say? Why not stop – the split had been on good terms? Something in that moment would not let me drive away that day so I parked.
I was terrified walking up to the front door. After all, normally when you see your ex, you want to look your best, and I here I was 30 lbs. heavier with a baby and a bad perm and feeling completely out my comfort zone. But there was more. Him and I had shared a close circle of friends during high school. When I started dating Nolan’s father, things got more complicated. I changed and they didn’t approve or maybe didn’t know how to respond to me. I had lost all of my friends. I had no idea how visiting would be received.
When he answered the door, there he was just the same as he had always been with a big smile and a cute dimple. If he was shocked by me appearing on his doorstep he did a great job of keeping cool. We grabbed a seat in the living room and that’s when I immediately felt the urge to leave. Our dynamic had completely changed. I felt awkward and completely out of place. I didn’t really know what to say and to make matters worse, his mom was there – who had never cared for me. We did the regular, how are you, what have you been up to chit chat laughed at how adorable Nolan was and then I ended up leaving shortly after.
Walking out the door brought a lot of sadness to me. The visit didn’t seem to have any purpose and I’m sure after I left, he was like what the hell was that, or worse, they talked about what a mess I had made of my life and how lucky he was to escape that. And then my flashback ends.
This memory has been popping up nightly for over a week. Exactly the same, every time. I started to focus on different parts of the memory – how I felt in each part of it. Anxiety and fear in the car, awkwardness in the house and sadness when I left. Why was I so sad? I couldn’t have really expected the visit to go great. I wasn’t in love with him any more. Then I realized, my visit had nothing to do with him. It had to do me realizing that life was never going to be the same as it had been before Nolan. I couldn’t go back. Not only had I lost several friends who didn’t understand me at the time, but I could never go back to that carefree time. That’s what “Sam” represented. My time with him and our friends are some of my best memories in high school – carefree summers, laughter, and late night swims. My new summers consisted of working, changing diapers, and getting Nolan snuggled into bed at an early hour.
Shutting that front door and walking away, was a defining moment in my life. I wasn’t just leaving a house or an old friend, I was subconsciously acknowledging that I was shutting a door on a piece of me that had meant so much to me. Just like the lyrics in the song, “Strawberry Wine” – “Is it him or the loss of my innocence I’m missing so much”; I was wanting a glimpse of those simpler times.
And maybe watching Nolan, who is almost 18 and graduating, having the “best” time of his life, triggered it. I’m coming up on another defining moment in my life when he leaves this nest and again, my role in this world will change. I just hope that this time, I am able to focus on the positive aspects and make it a a wonderful next step in my journey.