Rivers

They say that when you lose something you need to “get over it”. Stop thinking about it, delete reminders of them and you will start to feel better with time. That’s what strong people do anyway, they become happier with time because they have gotten “over it” and “moved on” from what they lost because they don’t think about that person or that thing as often or at all anymore. If you think about your life as a river, the rough parts of life are like rapids and rocks. The things that are going to hurt, “strong” people will get out of their boat, portage past the rough parts, and put their boat back in the river when it’s calmer.

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So I actually call bullshit on all of that. People that “get over” and “move on” from things they lost, do those things because that’s what they want to do. Doing these things (moving on, getting your boat out) doesn’t make you strong, to me it shows weakness. To me, people move on, so they don’t have to face what hurts.

I’m not afraid of my history, even the parts I’m not proud of.  I’ve lost people and things that I care about. The best way to show this example is my mom. Nine and a half years ago my mom died in a car accident. I had no choice in losing her, she was ripped out of my life and out of the lives of all the other people she was meaningful to. It’s interesting because you wouldn’t think that people would expect you to “get over” or “move on” from losing someone like that. But, it happens, people have told me to “get past it” and “be OK”. Which seems ridiculous to me. I’m not getting “past” losing my mom, ever. I’m not “moving on” either.

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My life is obviously different than the way it would have been if she was in it. But I don’t hide things that remind me of her, they’re not packed in a box on a shelf somewhere. They are all around me, everyday. I have constant reminders, I even wear her jewellery. I think about her every day. Literally. And some days it is OK, I think about her and I have good memories, or no memories and I just picture her face, and nothing else really happens. But sometimes when I think about her it sucks. I get pissy and rude and treat other people around me poorly, sometimes I’ll cry in a bathroom somewhere because it just seems like life isn’t fair at all. But when I have these days when bad feelings associated with my mom come up, when I see the rocks and rapids ahead of me, I don’t get my boat out of the water. Even though it’s going to hurt. I don’t hide those objects that remind me of her, I face my feelings and I feel shitty. And nine years hasn’t made feeling shitty any easier.

I can tell you for sure that I’m bruised and I’ve been broken. I’ve even felt like I’ve been out of my boat and drowning with no hope for survival. The rocks of life hit me hard at times. Sometimes a river will split, you can choose which way to go, I’ve definitely chosen the rockier path on more than one occasion, sometimes that was a good decision and sometimes it was a bad one.

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The example of my mom is really just an example, I feel like people have the choice to move on from lots of things. Friends or family that are still alive, jobs, partners, life goals, and more. To me, people are the most important part of life. I hope I never choose to move on from somebody. I don’t want to convince myself of something I don’t feel, I just want to be honest with myself and my emotions. If the thought of someone lost hurts, I want to feel hurt, even if that means I carry that hurt every day for the rest of my life. In this way, I can live with myself because I haven’t made the choice to lose that person. It’s either that no one has any control (like in my mom’s example), or someone else has control and they chose to move on, that’s their prerogative. If I have chosen not to move on, I can be proud of myself that I didn’t give up on anyone. That is also what love feels like to me. Real love will never move on. It doesn’t have to look the same as it once did, but I believe in a world where it doesn’t have to ever leave. Anything less than that to me, is something masquerading itself as love.

There could be times that people throw rocks in your river, they choose to make it harder than it has to be, especially if they moved on and you didn’t, that would be some pretty tough boating. Sometimes  But I know there are people that will do the opposite. They will bring their boat along side yours, and help you get through the rocky parts together.

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Looking at the good and bad decisions I have made in my life, and how I have carried myself, I know one thing that I’ve never done is get out of the river. I don’t move on from things. I’m carrying bad feelings with me, wherever I go. They aren’t always on the surface and having them doesn’t mean I can’t be happy. This is just what I’ve chosen. It’s a hard way to live life, but I think I’m better for it. I hope other people are better for it. No matter what, I won’t abandon anyone. I will choose to stay on my river, no matter what.

-Ben

Photographs from Niagara Gorge – November, 2016

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