Everyone has a past, for good or ill.
Some bits are looked upon with smiles, others with cringes. As time wears on, we eventually find ourselves reflecting back and perhaps can feel angry or bitter because of the time wasted on relationships that didn’t end well.
This is bad.
Everyone has been burned, whether it was emotionally, physically, mentally, financially, or any other –ly one can think of. I think we can all agree in saying that getting burned sucks, especially when coming from someone that was trusted, and it can be some of the worst hurt one can experience. The betrayal is brutal and the pain of it can linger way too long…but only if we let it. Do not allow past hurts damage the present and ultimately the future; allow the lovely virtues that are Faith, Hope and Patience to combat the crippling faults that are Doubt, Despair and Anger.
The best way to do this is to simply view past relationships as learning experiences to grow from. This realization occurred for me while I was griping to a family member about how upset I was for all the time wasted on a dud boyfriend. Her response was, “Well, did you learn anything from the relationship? Then it wasn’t a waste of time.”
I thought about this a lot and realized all my past relationships, the good ones, the bad ones and the downright ugly ones, were indeed filled with learning experiences that I still carry with me and always will. Funny things like learning how to drive a manual to my love of Kurt Vonnegut novels I can pinpoint to a past relationship I had with an interesting dude.
I carry with me heavier life lessons as well.
I learned that no matter how hard one tries, we can never, ever change a person; they can only change themselves if they genuinely want to and sometimes even then it doesn’t happen. We want so much to believe that love conquers all and if we just keep trying and not give up, this person will change, they will “get better.”
We want so much to believe they will wake up one morning and magically transform into a positive, happy person who wishes to embrace life rather than be apathetic or bitter towards it all the time, inspired by all the patient love and attention that was lavished on them day after day.
I learned that my happiness is just as important and even though I may not be precious to the world, I am precious to me.
I learned that I actually do care about spirituality. Growing up in the Bible Belt eventually led me to be pretty disgusted with anything involving words like “church,” “Jesus,” “God,” and phrases like “getting saved.” I found the whole scene to be rife with hypocrisy and used it as a people filter: if someone claimed to be a Christian they were automatically labeled as an utter ass in my book, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
However, as time wore on, I realized being a spiritual person isn’t really about any of those things. It is simply a relationship between the self and the Universe, no matter what one believes in, be it Jesus Christ, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I learned that I don’t really care what a person believes in as long as they believe positively in something and feel that sublime, mysterious connection with the Universe and can sit back, smile at Life, the Universe and Everything with arms outstretched in appreciative wonder and say, “Yeah, this is awesome.”
I learned the thing I love best about being in a relationship is the sharing, but that it has to go both ways. No matter how much one boyfriend and I fought, we could still find happiness in swapping books we read. Another boyfriend and I never really fought at all, but it hurt me that while I could learn to share his enthusiasm for his interests, he refused to share in my interests.
I would tell myself I was being too sensitive and that it really wasn’t a big deal if he didn’t enjoy the same things I did, but I eventually changed my mind. I learned that the willingness to try new things and share new interests are actually really important to me; if I’m going to eat someone’s oranges, they need to be willing to eat my apples.
I learned that while easy-going, frictionless relationships are loads better than drama-filled, abusive relationships, I still need excitement and passion. Complacency and repetitious routine only works for so long; spontaneity and a sense of adventure are requirements in a relationship, not perks, and there is a happy medium to be cultivated and refined.
I learned I am absolutely uncompromising when it comes to fidelity. I neither juggle nor wish to be juggled. I learned this has nothing to do with me being insecure, lacking confidence, or any other BS that would be force-fed to me when I would get upset over boyfriends getting handsy or flirty with other women. It’s about respect, pure and simple. I understand there are some people who prefer no-strings-attached deals and that’s fine; I learned I require a bit more than that and I don’t play those games. It’s not my style.
I learned with ex’s comes baggage, but the baggage can be sifted through and good things can be salvaged from the amicable, anti-climactic, or completely wrecked end. The good things we discover are tools for helping us grow and become a stronger person; they help us learn a little more about who we are and what we want so we can live better lives in the now. And that is that.
Don’t check-in the excess baggage to the new relationship terminal. Over-packing is always a big no-no and we have enough things to tote on our backs, hearts and brains without adding extra weight like that.
It’s all too easy to dwell on the past and have regrets, but it’s healthier to acknowledge the good bits and lay the bad bits to rest. Remember the Junk Lady in Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth?
We can keep piling on and piling on the refuse from our past until we are transformed into a hunched, wretched creature that can barely move. Or we can fling it off with strength and conviction and boldly say, “You have no power over me.”