Today, someone said to me: “I have no use for the past. What good does it do me now?”
I couldn’t help but take a hard look at the amount of time each day that I spend thinking about the past. Sure, it’s only human to have memories of people and events in the past, and they pop up of nowhere and jump into our field of vision. That’s just how our minds work.
So here is a question: How is the view in the rear view mirror?
But then I had to ask myself how long I hold on to those thoughts about the past, dwell on them, turn them around in my mind, when I could be more focused on what’s happening now. Sure, we learn from the past. But spending too much time in the past can cause a lot of stress in the present because sooner or later you are going to be stuck on replay – and wasting your time doing the woulda-shoulda-coulda dance – and giving yourself a hard time, when the present is happening all around you.
And don’t forget that, as the fine print says, “Objects in the rearview mirror may look larger than they are.” Our minds have a way of distorting our memories as, over time, we hit that replay button over and over and over. As a result, we might turn a minor event into a major one as we gradually (and conveniently), modify a few of the details, change the wording here and there, assume we had knowledge or options that we didn’t at the time, or modify the roles that we or others played. Assigning blame. Making somebody the bad guy. Making ourselves the bad guy.
The past has its own special meaning if you are facing a chronic condition. It’s hard not to look back on what your life was like before you received your diagnosis, how you felt, what you did or didn’t do, how others acted around you. And to make comparisons between what life was like and what life is like now.
You can leave your mind in the past but you are living in the now. Sure with challenges you didn’t have in the past. And changes that you didn’t expect to have to make. But also opportunities, beginning with facing life on life’s terms – as it is right now – and seeing not only limitations but possibilities. Deciding to grab the opportunities for growth. And laying the groundwork for the future, which begins a second or two from now.
If you look at life that way, none of us has a lot of time to be dawdling in that that rear view mirror.
Here’s an idea. Enjoy the memories. Remember the lessons. But remind yourself that the past is past. How about this: Live WITH the past, but not IN the past.
Shift your view toward what’s around you. Ask yourself every day what you can do to make best of the day that you have been given. What can I do to take better care of myself? What can I do to make somebody in my life feel valued? What can I learn that I didn’t know yesterday? What’s a baby step outside of my routine that I could take?
And especially: What’s good today?
Look around you. Take a moment each and every day and remind yourself of what’s working in your life. People who support you. Doing the best you can to take care of yourself. Simple pleasures of the day. Forgive yourself and forgive others. As Paul McCartney said: Let it be.
Next Discussion: finding the middle ground »