Vitality Stories Lesson #3
YOU ARE NOW HERE:
When to Embrace the Past and When to Pass
The Past Doesn’t Exist?
Helping elders with their memoirs is a trip in time. On one hand, I’m enrolled in Life 101, learning valuable lessons that I can apply to my own existence, relationships, and choices—a veritable checklist of Do’s & Don’ts for a Happy Life. On the other hand, I spend A LOT of time digging around in someone else’s past, and before I know it BANG!—something happens in my family and I start fruitlessly unearthing feelings that don’t deserve my energy.
Family drama—it’s all relative. When I get caught up in my family drama and resurrect old hurts to fully illustrate to my boyfriend why I’m so upset by something a family member has newly said or done, my biologist/immunologist boyfriend calmly states, “The past doesn’t exist.”
I get indignant, ALWAYS, and jump up and wave my arms, “If it didn’t exist, how am I standing here right now?” Yes, I know. I can be emotional.
In his matter of fact tone, he’ll respond, “If the future doesn’t exist, how can the past?”
And then I sit down to pout because he won’t let me tell him THE story. You know the maddening story I can tell myself over and over again that riles me and screams for vindication when salt has been dumped in the wound again? Perhaps you have a few of these stories, too. But slowly I’ll begin to breathe, ponder his point, and perhaps he’s right. Maybe. The. Past. Is. Gonzo.
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
More and more I’m considering learning about Buddhist concepts. I like this quote and other guidance I have learned from Buddhist friends, but I need more help because if I’m mad in the present about something that happened in the past that no longer exists, what do I do NOW, Buddha?
Instead of Buddha, I asked Google to search for an answer. Most links suggested meditation (which I keep intending to learn) and a biggie—accept all things as they are today and then release them. I emailed a close friend, Rich, and he explained this to me further,
“The past existed. It got us here. It contributed to who we are or what we’ve become. But it has only contributed. We choose if it will define us.”
I was in the fifth grade when my teacher said ,
“When we forget history, we repeat history.” It had bothered me so I asked, “In families, too?” I went home that day and wrote a list of Do’s & Don’ts that would separate me from some of the problems in my family. Given I was ten or eleven, I guess it was age appropriate to choose: don’t get tattoos, don’t wear tight clothes, don’t smoke, don’t drink, do my homework, do graduate from high school…and so on.
And my friend is on to something. I don’t want to ignore and miss out on the contributions of the past. He often discusses cause and effect in his blog, Raw Ability, which is another healthy way to consider gifts of the past.
Let it Go and Let it Grow
In truth, some wonderful things have happened to me in my life as a result of seemingly negative events. I’ll share some of these life stories in future blogs, but I’ll start with this example that doesn’t need a lot of explanation:
I was in a relationship for thirteen years that seemingly ended in heartache. When I first met The Ex in college, he said five little words that convinced me this was true love. He said, “You look like an author.” So let’s retrace the If-Then journey step by step:
- IF I hadn’t met the ex-boyfriend during college, THEN I would’ve never moved to San Francisco, in the late nineties. San Francisco had never been on my list of places to live.
- IF I hadn’t moved to San Francisco, THEN I wouldn’t have met my boss who I would follow to three companies throughout California.
- IF I hadn’t have met my boss, THEN I wouldn’t have moved to San Diego where I would work with the man who has now been my amazing, inspiring boyfriend for the past several years.
- IF I hadn’t have met my boss and my boyfriend, THEN I wouldn’t have returned to San Francisco to work for a biotechnology company that would be acquired, greatly escalating the value of my shares.
- And IF I wasn’t with my now fabulous boyfriend who is incredibly intelligent, educated, and philosophical, THEN I might not have written my novel, Tiger Drive, because in all honesty, he has challenged me to expand my world and the way I observe and participate in it and this is evident in my book.
I now write full-time. I not only look like an author, I am one. This past does not define who I am, but it certainly contributed to where I am and who I want to be. I wouldn’t change any of the steps. My perspective changed between the above bullet points, because…
…I can unpack and repack my baggage as much as I want, I can add new items, and I can let buttons be pushed (or am I pushing my own?), but it doesn’t change the package of yesteryear. I can’t change events and I certainly can’t change people. The only thing I can change about the past is my perspective of the old and how I choose to react to new events. I can perpetuate the past, pick at scabs, OR I can accept and release. Let it go, and let it grow. Heal. Hmm, which one sounds likes more fun?
I was getting a massage yesterday. Actually it was my sixth one in three months. I treated myself to a package for my last birthday. I’ve noticed that while I’m being pampered and when I shouldn’t have a care in the world, bad memories would pop up. Some big and some small. I asked the masseuse if this sounded familiar. She said it was common with her clients. She believes that tissue stores memories and since a massages exercises toxins from your system, hence the need to drink a gallon of water after a treatment, it is natural that negative memories might resurface. And like Buddha and Google, she advised, “Accept the memory and then release it while I work on you.”
“Is that my only choice, do you suppose? Accept and release?” I asked.
“You have endless choices, but letting negative energy go might be one of the best. Depends who you want to be,” she said.
So by letting something go, it’s not necessarily saying goodbye or good riddance, it can be loosening your hold on an idea, a misconception of control, or a narrow view…and letting it develop, mature, and grow to simply move on as it should, with you or without you. Ah ha. Perspective = choice.
A Choice Admission
Therein lies the greatest value for me in dabbling in the past and where I came from—knowing that my adult life is a series of my choices and I can be who I want to be. Some choices will help. Other choices might seem like backward steps. As a person, I’ll measure myself as the total sum of my choices and lessons. There’s a saying floating around somewhere and I don’t know who to give credit to, but it goes like this,
“Everything you do is based on choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.”
And furthermore, Nishan Panwar, poet, says,
“If you keep one foot in the past and the other in the future…that leaves you straddled and pissing on the present. Live for today and plan for tomorrow.”
In truth, my boyfriend is RIGHT, “The past doesn’t exist.” Choice exists. Perception exists. Perspective exists. NOW exists. A choice on what role the past shall play in our lives today—THAT exists.
Today we can make a choice about yesterday. We can embrace moments. We can pass. We can accept something for what it is and we can release it. OR we can dwell in it.
I’m going to let it go and let it grow.
Vitality Lessons #3: YOU ARE NOW HERE
What is your perception of your past and what role do you allow it in your life? When do you embrace and when do you pass? What tips or insights would you like to share?