I Don't Know How to Let Go of My Past – Kveller
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dear gefilte

I Don’t Know How to Let Go of My Past

Dear Gefilte,

How do I let go of the past?


 Dear Caught,

You just did.

Now go home and start over.

With love and schmaltz,


OK, maybe it’s not that easy. And I’m going to piss off some yoga teachers and monkfish when I say this, but I don’t think letting go of the past is possible.

For some of us, it’s a thick layer of algae—blocking out the light and trapping us in salty fears. For a lot of us, it’s like the appendix—we live with it, and we worry about it when we have bad gas, but the rest of the time we basically ignore it and hope it doesn’t burst. For all of us—and I’m talking by land or by sea—it’s that hairy combination I call a “giflenge” (gift + challenge). It deserves a hearty, “Thank you, and buh-bye.”

I have some personal Time Traveling heroes who are incredible at recognizing the past and reclaiming the present.

1. Laura Olin, who writes this incredible column called “Everything Changes” and each week sends out a message about dogs, love, or crowd-sourced ideas for how to make the best scrambled eggs.

2. Meredith Carroll, who wanted a way to acknowledge the anniversary of her cancer prognosis even/especially after she was cancer-free. So she created this hilarious line of greeting cards called Special Oddcasions to celebrate divorces, prognoses, vasectomies, etc.

3. Minh Dang, who is a love warrior, poet, and activist. Minh is a survivor of human trafficking and lives with the physical and mental effects of being sexually enslaved by her parents for almost two decades. Every April she celebrates “Freedom Day” to mark the anniversary of when she broke free.

Humbling, right?

Makes me rethink my moaning about old mixtapes and the bluefish who promised to call but instead swam off to the west coast with some crab.

As Marvin Hamlisch and Lisa Loopner crooned,

Can it be that it was oh so simple then?

Or have we rewritten every liiiiiine?

Our memories are important for survival. Without good recall, we wouldn’t be able to do things like:

– stay away from carnivorous predators

– stay away from boxed Pinot Grigio

– stay away from that bartender who plays drums and grows weed on his roof and wants to hang out but nothing more, but he kind of needs a loan and maybe doesn’t answer calls but has an awesome cowlick

We are trained to remember, recite, and repeat. And a lot of the time it does serve us well. The tricky part is repurposing. Acknowledging our yesterdays, and either leaving them there or turning them inside out to make a sassy new frock for today.

This time of year is actually very hard for me because of my past. Two years ago, I was laying on a metal table while my coronary artery get stented. I thought it was acid reflux. The doctors said it was a heart attack. It was one of the saddest, scariest, most confusing moments of my life. It also led to amazing things like learning about rare arterial diseases and chatting with charming Italian cardiologists. And I can tell you that physically, I am completely healthy and no longer need to mark this day in my calendar with a fanged X.

And yet….

Last year, I wanted to spend the day hiking or eating pickles, and instead my body seized in a full-blown panic attack. I couldn’t breathe or form complete sentences. I spent the night in the ER, begging people to check my blood and my heart and every herby inch of me to prove that the past was not happening again.

It wasn’t.

It isn’t.

It can’t.

The past is past. And while we may not be able to let go of it completely, there are ways to flip it on its side or dance it out.

Here are a few things I’m going to try this year on my heart attackaversary. I encourage you to try with me, or send me your own ideas.

– send my Italian cardiologist flowers

– walk through midtown Manhattan and count how many hearts I see

– eat those pickles while watching Lisa Loopner

– call my 91-year-old uncle for more dirty jokes

– make elephant noises for my 2-year-old until he shrieks with laughter.

At least, I hope that’s what he does. He loves elephants and he laughed last time I tried.

But who knows…?

With love and schmaltz,


Read More:

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Have a question for Gefilte? Send it to deargefilte@kveller.com, and you might just get an answer. 

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