I don’t think I live in the past on most days, but sometimes I pay an extended visit to those experiences.
Even if we’ve worked our ass off at staying present in this moment, we find thoughts can meander down that long ago discarded path.
It’s easy to do when we feel vulnerable to circumstances that are beyond our control or recurring, like a nightmarish Groundhog’s Day. Perhaps, we take out the microscope and look closely at why we’re stuck in a cycle or we strap on the telescope and look back, trying to locate that big, bad decision or mistake.
And at the time, it wasn’t a bad decision or a mistake, no. It’s what we believed back then was the “right thing to do.” And because we’re in this vulnerable space, it no longer looks like a decision we should have made. It looks like we gave up something really valuable to gain this present moment.
That’s where we can get into some real ass kicking with ourselves. Wondering how we hurt others or thought we were headed in a different direction, only to find ourselves in opposition to the goal.
What happened? Why am I here?
And now what with all the feelings of guilt, grief, missing someone or something, sadness, angst, shame or some other feeling of depressing helplessness? What do we do?
I’ve submerged myself in those moments, finding it offers up a different perspective, one I didn’t possess at the time. I allow myself to experience all those ugly feelings—the ones which make me think I couldn’t make a good decision in finding my way out of a paper bag.
I try not to wallow (which is different than allowing), I sit in it, imagining if things had turned out differently.
What would it mean?
And that’s where I stop.
My emotions pause and I take a breath. It’s time for deep acceptance. Clearly, I can’t change the past, as much as my emotions pull me backwards to something I feel is currently missing in my life.
As it dawns on me, the road I take is acceptance. There’s no place for the past as it was, right here, in my present. There’s only a place for the past as a point of reference in who I’ve become, for what I’ve learned about me since that time.
Acceptance requires forgiving myself. It requires understanding where what I had thought was a good decision for me came from, how it suited my perception of my life at that time.
Was I careless?
At times, absolutely. Did I make uninformed, stupid decisions? Or ones where I thought I may emotionally come apart at the seams had I not gone for the fire escape? Absolutely.
I also made some great decisions, ones that still resonate with my gut and the heart of who I am.
I stop kicking myself. I cannot sustain it because, as much as enlightenment is to some a nirvana, I realize my humanness is the nirvana for me. I know how screwed up I am, not as an excuse, but because I spent so many years in pursuit of an ideal of who I thought I needed to become to realize I was already me.
And why change it?
The past, in many ways, shows my struggle with how—if I twisted myself into a pretzel—I could have my dreams come true. I had an ideal of some sort of better me, which would deserve to have my heart’s desire. And it’s through this journey from past to present, even when I revisit it and start to wallow in it, that I’m able to once again connect the dots.
Connecting the dots is the most we can hope for in creating a deeper awareness. My awareness of how those seeds many moons ago sprouted into these beliefs I used to settle for in my life.
Often when we want more—our dreams—we make decisions that don’t bring instant gratification, but actually prepare us for being ready to accept and know we deserve more.
In turn, our perception of difficult circumstances that may be unrelenting can lead to these explorations, visitations and re-living of our past— trying to find the answer.
It’s to know that we’re on the path to where we want to go; it allows the present to be different. We can now create the present moment from our deepest joy rather than what we missed in the past.
No matter how the past looks on the surface, we couldn’t settle for circumstances as they were. So whatever we left behind, feel we missed and took a different direction in, accept it and create.
When falling into the space of those old days—because today is so difficult—we can recognize the picture, and allow it to be. Allow ourselves to be with what is and move toward what can be.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger