Springsteen once said people can change, but they can’t rid themselves of who they were. Traveling along life’s highway, old versions of ourselves are always with us, like apparitions haunting from the grave. Sometimes, he said, those old versions, those old ways of thinking and those old fears take the wheel. It’s impossible to shake your past.
That’s why change is so hard. People want to start over. They want to move away and become a different person. But that is impossible. As the old saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” They chase you down and haunt you wherever you hide.
Sometimes, in the dark of the night, the shrill, piercing tedium of life melts away and the madness is replaced by silence. It’s then the old demons can speak to you again. Sometimes they can even be friends.
I used to wish to be consumed with a burning passion. I watched these writers and artists from movies filled with all-consuming purpose. That way of life seemed easy–the straight through shot. Pick a subject, devote your life, become a master. Oh how I yearned for that purpose. Writers write. Actors act. Painters paint. Artists live. Others toil away in monotony.
The ghosts of my writing past creeps up on me. It slithers and squirms under the surface, slinking along through my whole life. I turn away, steering my life in another direction, but it pulls me back. Writing is agony and torture and hatred. Good writing anyway. Even when there is elation and joy, it never lasts. Inevitably, at some point it all turns to shit. But I can’t leave. I’ve tried. I’ve fought that ghost and lost. For now, I’ll stop fighting and surrender. Maybe it’s the edge of purpose and passion trying to pull me down into the deep.
Other ghosts I can still hear in the darkness. I can think of those instances in my life. Those ghosts of shame and of regret and of fear and even of happiness. I hear them lurking from time to time, walking through the halls at night. I hear them, and I turn away. Change is hard. Breaking habits is a brutal process. Four hundred pounds is a lot of turning away. Change means finally confronting them, listening to what they have to say.
I’m determined not to keep writing the same sad posts month after month, having once again squandered dozens of new moments to leap and let go and change. I’ve yet to even step on the scale this month. I don’t even want to know. Another ghost. More fear.
But there’s a funny thing–once you’ve given in and faced down one, the fear begins to dissipate.
There are thousands of days and millions of moments scattered across our night’s sky. Most are faded and barely visible. Only a few blaze bright enough to be seen at night. Most of us aren’t scared of the dark. We’re scared of the light. I know I am. I know I’ve been. They trap us and scare us and leave us turning away from old fears or turning back to old moments. Looking away, looking back, there’s no time to look forward.
I should be using them to guide me. I should give into them. Sometimes in the light of day it can be hard to see those stars. Maybe the trick is to let go. Maybe I should let them take the wheel.