There’s a quote I recently read that went something like this:
“We can’t be sure that tomorrow will ever come unless we make sure that it comes today.”
I’m paraphrasing. It caught my eye because of its clever play on words and the ideology behind it. It seems to me that often, we say to ourselves — in our minds, towards our lives — that things will be better when a certain criteria is met, a thing is achieved, or a event takes place. “My marriage will get better as soon as we get a new house together, I’m sure of it.” … “I’ll stop using drugs when I get a new job, that will be when I stop.”
What is it about ourselves and our habits that require great catalysts in order to change? Why must we procrastinate what we know must be done until ‘tomorrow’ when we know that without choosing a specific date, tomorrow never becomes today.
Compounding the issue is that when we do not take that step and turn tomorrow into today, we eventually reach a catalyst we never wanted. When we put off what we need to, life has a way of eventually forcing the things that need to happen, and it doesn’t care what breaks along the way.
Sometimes when this happens, we react poorly — far worse than we would have if we had done it ourselves — and then we find ourselves looking back at the past with regret. This regret breeds and festers into suffering, sometimes for years.. sometimes for our whole lives.
In this way, our past haunts us. Your logical mind can explain away everything you see.. but reliving it is inevitable.
But what if there was a way to shed the past’s hold on you? To obliterate the suffering that you feel. Camille Willemain of ThisAmericanGirl is a wonderful writer that recently talked about heartbreak and how freeing it can be. If you haven’t seen her blog, I suggest reading it, she’s incredibly insightful. She talks about how incredible heartbreak — the kind that you can barely breath through — was what drove her to make great and absolute change in her life. She didn’t say that she abolished the catalysts of her life that lead to them, she said she used terrible situations to find her best self. To learn how to love herself.
What we can learn from our past is exactly what will set us free. But it doesn’t start with the past — that’s already happened and you can’t change it no matter how much you want to. It’s the opposite, in fact. You must accept every single ounce of the past as real — as happened, and done, and over. And then, you have to forgive yourself for it all and tell yourself that today — not tomorrow, not some day — today you will take your first step towards being what you’ve always known you could be.
Whether it is to be a more appreciative lover, someone who faces their past, their lies, their fears, or someone that finds their moral center — we’ve all got improvements we’ve been putting off.
Perhaps each time the past haunts you, it does so not to torture you, but to remind you that you still have some business to face — to sift through, to admit to yourself, to confirm, to find closure with, or to accept completely — before you can begin healing. Your heart is trying to tell you how to mend yourself, to force you to face the things you have experienced. Shed your fear and brave the past.
To begin to wade through the difficult memories, you might want to start by talking about them. Not to yourself, with your mind’s voice, but to someone, or to no one. Consider writing it it out, as if you’re telling someone else. As if you’re telling the people who perhaps you could never otherwise talk to. Write them a letter and tell them your every thought. Anytime those memories come back, instead of suffering within them, turn to them and ask them what they want; face them and allow them to flow from writhing in your mind to words on a paper, an activity you enjoy, or a voice to a friend.
And then after you’re done with that thing, and you’ve gotten them out, set them aside and face the rest of your life. Your life won’t stop because the past is haunting you. Doing this will teach your mind and your heart that you will handle the memories when they come, but that they will not control you.
Above all else.. love yourself, forgive yourself, and accept that every person makes mistakes — even really bad ones — including you. Including me. Including every other human being you have ever met.
Starting today, you can take the first step to being who you want to be, not who your memories tell you that you are.