The brain is an amazing organ. It can do so many incredible things. It is so resilient, yet so flexible. The connections and functions are undoubtedly incredible, with so much detail and communication that it is mind blowing (sorry about that).
Something that the mind can do is forget. It can bury memories--painful moments, frightening experiences, embarrassing incidences, and so many others. But these things can only be buried so deeply; they have to surface eventually. They have to be faced and worked through. You cannot run from your past. No matter how fast you run, it will always catch up to you. Somehow, someday, somewhere, it will find you.
My past caught up with me today. I didn't really even know how hard I had tried to bury the experience until the reminder was staring me (almost literally) right in the face. The physical reaction was startling--heart racing, breath coming short and fast, muscles tense and ready. The emotional and mental reaction was even stranger--a wrenching inside, with flashbacks to the fear and anger and hurt, and the thoughts rushing over me--No, it can't be. I'll never see him again. Ever. It's the past. It can't find me. He can't find me. He's not supposed to be here.
In 9th grade, there was a boy. He was an odd person, and rather unliked because he was rude and "different". I didn't particularly care for him, but I was never cruel or unkind. I smiled at him, I waved at him, I offered him a seat at my friends' table in art class. He didn't accept, and I wasn't surprised. I noticed that he was often near me, and following me around the school. We had several classes together. After a while, his actions were less on the fringe of my life and more involved. He would shove me in the hallways, take my things, sabotage my homework projects (especially in art class), and do other things like that.
One day in Seminary (religion class), he damaged one of my assignments very badly. I got upset and told him firmly to leave me alone and to stop following me around. He got angry very quickly, and before I knew it I was shoved into the classroom wall. He struck me hard, and would have continued hurting me if the boys in my class hadn't intervened and pulled him off. I was crying and ashamed and hurt. I wanted to go home. I wanted my family.
My teacher sided with the boy in my class. He said that it was my actions that had caused the boy to do that to me. My teacher said I needed to be patient and loving and kind, because the young man was confused and alone and probably hurting. My teacher wouldn't let me leave, and he tried to make me apologize for antagonizing the boy.
My parents and the school administration took care of the problem. The boy was removed from all of the classes he had with me. My friends rallied around me and one of them (6' 4" tall 9th grade boy) spoke to the boy and said if he gave me any more trouble there would be serious consequences.
Then it was over. Done. I put it in a secret place in my mind, and pushed it away.
That boy is now a man. I know--I saw him today. All of the memories and feelings came rushing back. As I walked past him, it was like a slow motion moment in a film. I remembered everything, things I didn't even know I remembered. It was like going back in time to that day in junior high school.
I have never faced what happened. I have never let myself consciously analyze and work through that experience. I've never embraced it, but I've never let it go. I never faced it, until I literally faced it.
Fear is painful. Pain is painful. Anger is painful. Sadness is painful.
Change is painful, too.