There is no past we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternal now that builds and creates out of the past something new and better. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The past is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. That very thought ran through my head a few days ago when, for whatever reasons, I started thinking about a terrible car accident my oldest daughter and I were in. The brain’s a peculiar thing, isn’t it? There I was, picking tomatoes in our garden and my mind started playing 20 questions: “Why did you take that particular route? Why didn’t you take the main road? What was so important that you even had to go to the store anyway?!?”
I turned the tables on these thoughts and ended the conversation by saying, “Thank God we both lived through it and, what’s more, I know it made us both stronger.” Plucking a positive out of wreckage (literally, in this case) puts negative thoughts on mute. Just where they should be.
Even those of us who so firmly live by the phrase, “Live in the Moment” that it could be tattooed across our forehead have moments when our thoughts slide into the past. We’ll long for days that have passed or, as in the example above, wish desperately that we could get a “do over” where we could change events.
Spending time in the past can actually prove to be the root of many problems, but because it’s such a deep, hidden root we don’t always see it.
- Many relationships are tense because of unforgiven or forgotten incidences in the past. One will pounce on the other for a tiny infraction simply because they’re carrying residual anger from a past incident. The other person will cry out, “What I did isn’t worth all of this!” and perhaps the one who’s angry KNOWS it isn’t’. They may not even realize that the “root” of the problem travels into the past.
- People who have lost dreams will hold onto them so tightly that they fail to realize just how wonderful their life really is. They keep measuring it against their castle in the sky dream, causing it to come up short. What part of that is healthy?!
- Parents with grown children will often cling to the past, when their children were small and running through the house bouncing off walls. If they aren’t careful, they fail to fully appreciate and cultivate a close friendship with the young adult in front of them.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having wonderful memories and, certainly, revisiting happy times is a beautiful trip. The point is this, you don’t want to spend so much time THERE that you fail to fully experience HERE.
I once had an experience that sort of sums up what I’m trying to say. If you read much of my writing (if you do, I love you!), you know that I’m a nature and animal lover to the core. I’m one of those people who gets completely lost watching birds at her bird feeders or seems to check out of reality while staring at a magnificent tree. One day this past summer, my husband and I were driving in a region of Kentucky called “Land Between the Lakes.” This gorgeous area is filled with wildlife, birds, butterflies, trees, sailboats, lakes… it’s just gorgeous and it’s a place we visit regularly.
As always, I had my camera with me and was snapping pictures for my own enjoyment as well as for my Kentucky blog. As we turned down a scenic road that ran right by one of the lakes, for some reason (I’ll never know why, exactly), instead of keeping my camera ready and looking out my window as usual, I started looking down at the pictures I’d recently taken. My husband came to a slow stop and, when I looked up , there was a gorgeous doe right by my window.
Would have been the photographic moment of a lifetime.
She was so close I could have practically kissed her nose. But where was I? In the past. I was looking at what had already happened rather than fully taking in what was LITERALLY right in front of me.
Whenever I find myself being pulled back into the past, I remember that gorgeous doe and the lesson she taught me. Look in wide-eyed wonder at the world around you. Take it all in and appreciate where you are.
“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.” – Betty Smith