Some believe we hold on so tightly to our problems because they can give us a sense of identity. The theory goes that we replay past mistakes over and over again mentally which allows feelings of shame and regret to shape our present. There is a clinging to worry about the future, as if that somehow lends strength. I am guilty of spinning such self-deception thinking that if I can finally crack the mystery of something in the past somehow the key to the future will be unveiled.
What I have learned is the “key” to the future is “today”. By living well in the present is how I can best effect what is yet to be. There are few answers, if any, to be found in the past. No amount of fretting, pointed thinking or anguish will find sense and logic where none actually exists. Looking from “now” into the past is sort of like looking through a kaleidoscope: the view is colorful and interesting, but in no way is an accurate view. My memory of something in the past is actually a story I have spun to remember what I think happened. It is NOT what actually happened, but only my story about the happening: factual or inaccurate in what measures is impossible to know.
Even with the knowing my view of the past is no more than partially correct I am still guilty of holding too tightly to some of my delusions about happenings of long ago. They may even be lies I tell myself, but regardless I know them well. And in knowing them well I trust what is not trustworthy in the first place. This is one of the reasons that expressing myself openly and fully to someone I care deeply about is so difficult for me. All the knowledge I have acquired and tools I have learned for coping with life have not erased the tendency to regulate today based on the past. The fear of telling my true and deep feelings remains a challenge.
There is someone special in life who I have opened my heart to and found love with. For years I thought that would never happen again. In part, I wished it wouldn’t as a way of trying to protect myself from being hurt. Love, like life, works best when its movement forward is free, but guided somewhat by lessons learned: signposts created through difficulty dealt with and adversity overcome. However, the key is the lessons must be viewed in “past tense” with only the wisdom gained being present today.
I have had difficulty expressing my feelings about something specific for several weeks to my special someone. Hesitation came from reviving memories of the past and making them alive in the present. Clear in memory is telling one in my past “I can’t tell you my problems because if I do you’ll only make them worse by using them against me”. That ember of the past floated into the present, blazed brightly and blinded me with its heat and smoke.
After trying for several weeks to speak about what was bothering me, I exercised both courage and cowardness by expressing my feelings in writing. My preference would have been to speak my thoughts, but they would not form in an audible manner. So I typed them in MS Word instead. When I pressed ‘send’ for the email, at least I knew I was being open, honest and caring. I hoped for the best.
While I had not specific idea how the woman in my life would react, I hoped everything would be OK. That it would turn out that way could have been seen more easily had I judged our relationship purely by what we have shared. However, as hard as I try for it not to be a factor my old conditioning from the past jumped up to be a strong force. My primary mistake is thinking the past was completely past and of little influence on my present. What has come before will continue to fade as time passes, but will never disappear completely. This was a wakeup call proving that. Avoiding getting caught up in my history does not mean blocking it or forgetting it. Rather I just need to pay some attention to the signposts of wisdom gained along the way and let go of past pain and heartache.
Having not slept well due to concern about how my letter would be received, I was greatly relieved when the woman I love responded this morning with a kind and understanding email. Yes, there is something to deal with but it exists ONLY due to how we both have been treated in our past. We will work together to make the past, past, so the present can be more present. Now that has been recognized a return to living in the present is upon me. I only hope the same can be said for her and as much as I want to make it so, I can not. As I must deal with “my stuff”, she must deal with hers. If we both do so with courage and good intention what we share will strengthen, the present will grow more vibrant and the past less influential. With hope and gratitude I believe that is what will happen.
The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason,
to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it
but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.