I have been thinking about closure quite a lot lately. Tying up loose ends of my past as I plan a trip home to Israel from where I immigrated to the United States almost thirty years ago. I have been invited to close out some old retirement accounts that popped up out of nowhere suddenly, bringing with them memories of the nineteen years I spent in Israel as a preschool teacher with the Ministry of Education. I had thought that all that went before I came to the States had been closed. But there it was - opened up again - like a wound that has been lying dormant closed over with a thick, impenetrable scar. Memories have been flooding in like a tsunami. I wake up in the middle of the night with them. They haunt me in the shower and on my walks. Sometimes they appear while I am chatting with a neighbor on a street corner. There I was, thinking I had successfully closed them out with my new American life. As they say in Magnolia, "The book says, "We might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.""
So, what do I mean when I say I want closure? I dream of closure so that I can move on. But what does that mean? Can I really just put the past behind and never look back? I have tried that. And, I always feel like there must be something wrong with me because the past is never fully done with me. As my therapist said the other day: we can never escape our childhoods. Our earliest childhood experiences remain impressed in the emotional memory of our brains. They fashion how we perceive the world, and how we developed our defense mechanisms in order to survive confusion and frustrations with significant adults when we were very young. We repeat our emotional life scripts over and over again. Part of therapy is becoming acquainted with those life scripts and survival skills and learning how to re, or un-learn them. I don't need to escape or close them down. Just become acquainted - and then I am able to choose different options.
I know a number of people, who tell me they have put everything behind them, and have moved on. And yet I see them repeating old patterns of behaviors and interactions over and over again. I might close the lid on traumatic experiences or old wounds but every now and again they peak out of the box with painful reminders. So, what if I just welcome in the old wounds, greet and acknowledge their existence? What if I explore and examine, breathe in and out of them, and make them part of who I am right now? I think I dream of closure out of fear of the pain. But, more and more I discover that pain is just that - pain. And the more I befriend it, the less it hurts. I long to lay down my burdens, and walk on feeling lighter, but I find that I carry them within anyway, and the lightness of feeling is only temporary.
So, when I go home next week I plan to explore the old haunts, physically and emotionally, greet them and get to know them from the vantage point of being older and wiser. Perhaps I will be able to forgive myself and others for doing what we all could with who we were, and what we knew at the time: Young, imperfect, unable to see further than our egocentric selves were capable of experiencing - pretty much doing the best we could with how we had learned to perceive our own realities, as we peered through our survival, defense mechanisms.
And ... I think I will give up on this notion of closure ... and hope to move on lighter anyway.