The past imperfect

Most nights Lily would leave the bedroom window open and I’d look up to it in the mornings when I let the dog out. I’d look up to her window and consider her inside, Christmas lights on the ceiling, glimpses of her bedroom posters and things. And reflect on what it meant to be the father of two teenaged girls, both of them struggling in their own ways—all of us struggling—not sure what else we could do. And then I’d call the dog inside and start my day.

It’s hard to reconcile what was really going on in hindsight. It’s like one of those films with a twist at the end that forces you to see everything differently from the start. That cracked window was like a glimpse into her world, and how little I could see from my vantage below. Leaving the windows open no matter the season, the Christmas lights on 24/7, that was a byproduct of the pandemic. How we all let go of our better senses and lost sight of what we knew to be true.

There is a certain amount of teenage meandering that’s a normal, necessary thing, and then there is the wandering through the dark corners of the soul, the internet, where one can get damaged beyond repair. And one can meander for so long at such a distance they lose track of where they started, and the original self falls out of view.

Many nights I’d step outside the front door and smell cannabis coming from somewhere, either the neighbors across the road or the ones up the hill. Cannabis had become so normalized it was often flavoring the air. And I was just as guilty myself, getting high as a psychic numbing, to separate myself from the gloom of the pandemic and treat the sadness I felt but couldn’t name. It was a treat I deserved for reasons I couldn’t articulate or defend.

The THC was a bridge to help me stop drinking, but it was a bridge I stood on alone. And like most bad habits it became a secret, my own private world. So to confront Lily when I thought she might be getting high was problematic, because we hadn’t been clear on consequences—and for me it would force a reckoning of my own habit or to quit, which I wasn’t ready to do.

In January I decided to take a break and was surprised at how easy it was to stop. My sober friends remark on how much perspective they get looking back at their former selves and it’s true, and refreshing. And it was good timing because Lily hit a breaking point and we had to get her more help.

Now we are all supporting Lily through her healing process, in going back to understand the cause of all her pain. And it has a ripple out effect that extends to me and Dawn and how we were raised, how our actions affected her.

There is so much embedded in the past and the ugliest parts get buried but still hold sway over our lives. It takes courage and loving support but we need to go back and hold these things we’ve hidden away before we can make peace with them. Otherwise they will govern our lives from their place in the dark, and destroy us.

Dawn says it feels like we are all beginning to awaken from a spell we’ve been under for the past couple years now. It’s finally forecast to get warm here in the northwest and the sky is now dotted with clouds, their undersides pink with the first morning light. I will fill my lungs with cool air and clear my head of last night’s sleep and with it, start a new day.

There is only so much time we can spend looking back before it’s time to start looking ahead once more.

Categories: Memoir, writing

Tags: ,

21 replies

  1. Beautiful piece. I hope Lily’s doing better. This reminds me of that Faulkner quote that the past isn’t dead–“it isn’t even past.” How, naturally, the way we were brought up is going to have some ripple effect.

    By the way, this line feels like the epitaph to the 2020s: “How we all let go of our better senses and lost sight of what we knew to be true.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So much of huge consequence in your words, Bill. Throughout the last 2 years I’ve felt we’ve had fine-tuned curses laid on us – in the way curses are laid in traditional cultures. They are designed to make us do the damage to ourselves, and it’s devilish hard to undo the effects, because we end up blaming ourselves/being overwhelmed with fear. So here’s wishing you all happy recoveries, singly and together, and especially Lily.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such a kind sentiment Tish and thank you. Love your riff on curses too. We will be better and stronger for it I think, but I will take time! And the effects seem to still come in ripples don’t they? Grateful for your words here and support, means a lot to me. Best, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The tear in my left eye might colour what I write, so cut me some slack Bill. Fine piece. Yes. Echoing sentiments above.
    Thankfully the internet was not around when I was a teen; but the window was open.
    Thank goodness too that it lets in fresh air and light. A bit like your post.
    All The Best to You All.
    Kind regards

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sweet David! Like that note about the Internet letting in fresh air and light, that’s true. So glad we met up! All the best to you and yours too, buddy. Bill


      • Just prior to reading your post I had had a conversation with my younger sister about her use of a bedroom window as a way to slip out of the house, and back in, when she was barely a teen. Neither of us understand how with loving and tolerant parents we both behaved do badly at times. I could only advise her to be gentle with her self about such ancient matters.
        May they become benign and ancient matters for you, Bill – and soon!
        Kind regards,

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lovely note and wish my friend! Thanks kindly for that. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A well-written piece there, duder. Hope you all continue to improve and get healthy together.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Digging in the dirt, to find the places we got hurt”.

    You have been much in my thoughts this past month or so. I guess that is a collective “you” beginning the previous sentence. Though the others are pencil outlines rather than 3-D pictures. Which made the exuberant share-your-dental-work photo particularly enjoyable.

    A lovely, heartfelt piece, Bill. I was struck by the dual use of ‘treat’; medication or reward… or both. Take care lovely man.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is very moving and I’m especially struck by Lily’s open window. I know it’s real and not a metaphor, just as your struggles are very real, but metaphors can help us process our experiences. Not that I need to tell you that, but the open window lets in fresh air, and you end here by filling your lungs with fresh air. I know the challenges you’re dealing with aren’t easy but it’s heartening that you see the connections that will help you going into the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beautifully put Christopher and thanks as always for the thoughtful reflection. Yes I was stuck on using that metaphor and had to give it a go, so perhaps I’ve just cracked the window on it. Happy it landed with you and wish you well! Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Parenting is not for the feint of heart, is it. As a mom of two completely different individuals, and the younger proving more challenging to raise, I just want to say I relate to your post and feel for you all. These last two years have put us through the ringer. Please don’t let the young ones suffer, and here’s to them finding fresh air and brighter times ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristen! Shout out to PA yo! So glad to hear from you and hope you’re doing well, in spite of this whole “thing” as touched on here…thanks for popping by and here’s to sobriety! We got that right?! Best to you and yours. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A stirring read on several levels, including a needed nudge to look back at some of my kids’ issues back when they were teens. Those are difficult years and I patted all of us on the back for getting through them together. As a single parent I had little support but also little interference, and I went by instinct. Worth scanning back and puzzling out just why this, that became our norm.

    Encouraging for me to read about your courage to change your habits/comforts to set a better example.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think of you folks and wonder how you’re doing every time you arrive in my inbox. “Need to read this from Bill. Save for later.” Gotta watch out for those later; they catch up with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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