I am not my past…

Listen to this blog on Living Life Gently on Anchor

I am not my past.

…but my past lives in me.

Last year a friend invited me to a photo challenge on Facebook called #natyamheals (dance heals). I’ve never done these facebook thingies before, but I decided to do this one.

For myself. For the process of revisiting images, photos and memories and noticing what happens in me when I share them in a more public space, albeit online…

The past 7 years my life has changed so completely that sometimes I feel almost lost.

The challenge made me look through my boxes and boxes of diaries trying to find photos from my journey with dance.

Turns out there are not many. Photo’s from my past are scarce. But the writing is not. I can’t quite believe how much I have written over the years.

It was interesting being confronted with moments from my past while looking through these boxes.  Realising where I’ve been and all the experiences that shaped me and co-created the journey that has brought me here. To my current life.

I love my current life and I am so privileged to live a life I love.

In my daily life, in my immediate surroundings I feel safe, loved, nurtured, valued, grounded, stable and grateful.

Cause I know what it is like to live while constantly feeling like an alien, feeling at odds with life and feeling like being in this world is only chaos and pain.

I grew up moving around all the time. I changed schools several times and my mum always struggled with our finances. My oldest sister contributed to cover my expenses for school and also for ballet classes.  Life was chaotic, uncertain and quite overwhelming and confusing.

I left home at 17 and kept moving around till I was 21 and struggled financially… I managed to find a safe place to live cheaply which was essential as I never managed to go back in to full time studying or working. I was on benefits and using mental health services until I was 28 when I started receiving a disability pension. Since then I have worked and volunteered when able. Which varies a lot.

The past couple of years I feel like more and more of my energy and head space is spent trying to cope with the pain and exhaustion that my body experiences. This is essential but it also takes me away from doing things I love because I simply don’t have the energy.

Like writing, painting, drawing, photographing, singing, playing music, gardening, sewing, D.I.Y.ing,  walking, cycling and dancing. And even though I prioritise dancing and (sensible) physical exercise I always want to be able to do more.

A lot of my physical challenges may be an ongoing reaction to the stress my body experienced during my childhood and early adulthood. Fear, uncertainty and existential distress.

But also an ongoing reaction to being a sensitive body in a very intense world. So the recuperation work never stops.

I don’t resent my past – I feel sad about some things and I grieve for the girl I was, and how hard she had to work to navigate daily life. But I also feel grateful because I cannot separate the things I love about my current life from the pain in my past. I am me now, not despite of what happened – I am me now with all that happened…

I don’t feel trapped in my past but past experiences live on in me and I believe they will do so for the rest of my life in this body. They live in the neurological pathways, in muscle memories, in sensory memories and in my bones. The past lives in my values, in my patterns, in my thinking in my language, in my dreams at night and in my daydreams. The past lives in my fears, my longings and my joys.

And the present moment also lives in me. When I am able to make space for the present moment, slow down, tune in and connect with what is now, this does not exclude what was before or what is ahead. Within me in the present moment lives all kinds of things, all kinds of experiences, feelings, thoughts and intangible manifestations of life.

Staying in the present moment is not necessarily a peaceful place, or a calm, simple place. My present moment is chaotic and wild – it is the clashing of everything that I am. It is a living ocean and my consciousness can only surf one wave at a time…

Photo credit Douglas Ross http://www.dougrossart.com


  1. Kia ora (hello)

    I resonate profoundly with your expression of the past and present and what that may look like.

    The vulnerable yet powerful articulation of your words help me to access the compassion to accept how powerfully the past is me and I am the past. That all of those parts of me can co-exist in the present and be accepted from gentle space of understanding.

    I struggle with feelings of shame when I am not meeting the worlds or my predisposed expectations of functioning, living, or just surviving. Then I read your experience, strength and hope above and suddenly I have the gift of grace to allow me to see those parts and know I can never control them.

    Nga mihi Elizabeth (much respect and love)


    • Kia ora
      thank you so much for your words – I feel grateful for the sense of connection I get from reading your comment.
      much love


  2. Thank you, Elisabeth. Though our lives have been very different, my experience resonates strongly. My body never learned to move and dance with your grace, and the synchronicity of some of our shared writing shakes me and gives me great joy. Love and thanks, Berta


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