I’ve been thinking a lot about the past. This is difficult for me to admit on a certain level, because I’ve prided myself on being a person who takes life, and all those things that come with it, on a case by case (day by day) basis.
But the nature of what I do, writing memoir, and writing this blog, is to delve into the past. The more I write about it, the more I think about it. The more I think about it, the more the memories come flooding back…often at midnight when I’m just trying to get some sleep.
The past can be a kind reflection; that trip to New Zealand where I ate green-lipped mussels the size of my hand, or that time when I was rocking my precious baby girl to sleep after a feeding and the sunlight poured in and settled on her fuzzy little head causing her to resemble a cherub.
On the other side of this are the memories I’m not proud of. The lies I’ve told, the hurt I’ve caused, the embarrassing moments that I’d rather forget (like that time I tore my skirt on an old chair in front of my entire 9th grade Spanish class).
As much as I cringe at some of the choices I’ve made along the way, agonize over the things I’ve said, or feel as if I never, ever, ever want to talk about the embarrassing moments, I realize that everything has been a roadmap to becoming who I am (and will become).
I’ve learned from my mistakes—granted, sometimes that lesson had to be learned a few times for it to “really sink in”. What’s more, I look at my mistakes in a different way now. Each one has been a learning tool, and when I stop and think about the past, in several circumstances, it almost feels as if I’m examining the life of a girl I used to know. That reflection is priceless, and gives me peace of mind to know that those mistakes I made were just that—mistakes, made by a woman who was still learning.
And P.S., everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. Your boss, your parents, the ‘holier than thou’ mom at school who can’t understand why you aren’t “more involved”. Everyone.
Thinking about the past can also be great for inspiration. As a writer, I reflect on my past to fill in the blanks of a story, to glean ideas for blog posts (Hey!), and to use those memories to start a discussion that helps others find an emotional connection that they might need to start their own healing. WHEW. Yes. I use my reflections to write stories for people in need—so they can find an emotional outlet and begin to heal.
Speaking of; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me that they feel as if they can’t complain to me, because of what I’ve been through in life. First of all, thanks? Secondly, no! I enjoy hearing other people’s stories! Honestly, it’s hearing what others are going through that makes me feel like part of the fabric of humanity.
The sharing of experiences provides a great perspective on life. So, if my journey through the fires of parenthood gives you some perspective on what you’re going through, then cool. I can guarantee that there will be times when I look at what you’re going through and think about how blessed I am, and that’s fine. Sweet, sweet perspective.
Sometimes I think about the past to remind myself just how far I’ve come, and to remind myself that I still have a long way to go. That book I have been thinking about for years, but have yet to complete. The weight I want to lose. The promise of being more in touch with family and friends.
I’m making headway with these goals, and thinking about the past struggles and triumphs helps keep me going. This is especially true in the case of long-term goals, which have a way of becoming stagnant (boring). To help overcome this, I set smaller goals along the way, that are reflective of the larger goal. Such as:
Writing a book —> Taking writing classes that force me to have deadlines.
Lose weight—> Reduce carb-heavy foods and learn to love (healthy) salad dressing.
More in touch with family and friends—> Taking the time for a girls day out, and talking to my Mom more frequently.
I realize that thinking about the past might bring up a large elephant in the room for some. What about when these memory-dives involve past relationships? Well, I think that all of the above points apply. If you’re being real about the mistakes made (yours too, not just theirs), and you’re using the past to examine what went wrong, as well as what went right, then you’re fine. I’ve found that looking back can help me to move forward, I can admit that now. And, I’m using what mistakes I made in the past to course correct in my present. Finally, I can look back and give myself permission to forgive and let go. That doesn’t mean that I forget what has happened, quite the opposite. But, I can forgive, and that gives me more freedom than holding on to any past hurt that may exist.
If you are ready to examine your own past, here’s a writing exercise that I’ve used to bring up some past memories.
Look at the question below, and write about the first thing that comes to your mind. (If you feel so inclined, share with me in the comments! I’d love to see where your reflections have taken you.)