We spend too much of our lives living in the shadow of the past. The stories we tell ourselves about the way things once were shape our interpretation of the present. We keep fighting old battles and replaying old dramas. We can’t let those tensions, fears, and enemies go. THere’s no peace in the future, just more conflict.
Of course the way we see the world comes in part from the way we see ourselves. Just observe when people start gossiping in a group, but one person abstains from joining in talking negatively about the target. You will find out a lot about your own character this way. The stories you tell about other people reveal a lot about how you see the world and thus yourself. There will never be one way, at least not in this life, to tell a story, but not every way is as truthful, loving, compassionate, or resonant with wisdom as others. Wisdom can only be gained by living the stories, just as actors have to draw from their real emotions to flesh out a new part.
Letting the past go is hard. I’ve been trying to have the relationship I had in high school, or rather the relationship I wanted to have, since I broke up with my first boyfriend. He had a lot of issues after I broke up with him, and though he is now pretty much fine, I’ve carried feelings of guilt and shame and hating the fact that it failed, and I never would have expected it. Every time I take an emotional risk, the downside seems like nothing compared to losing my first love and best friend I’d ever had. And even today, I wish for someone to talk to on the phone before I go to sleep every night, and the feeling of certainty that he’ll call again tomorrow and the day after that, and he really loves me. FOr a long time, I never thought back to the relationship except why i should have ended it sooner- not everything was peachy keen all the time after all, and there were good reasons for breaking up. It’s one decision I’ve never regretted, and from which it appears deceptively easy to draw a counterfactual- I’d been engaged, never have seen the world, and I’d probably not be growing in a positive direction since the person I was with was just not developing in the same way as I was. We were always different people and really never had anything in common but liking each other, or so it goes in one story I tell myself. I also tell myself sometimes that he was just the kind of guy that wanted a girlfriend, and I happened to be there, and he never liked me for me anyway. And sometimes I tell myself I should never let anybody get hurt from me again. And often I tell myself to wait until I find the right person so no one gets hurt and not to settle. Or that I just cain’t until my life is in order and staticly predictable like it seemed before. It’s not easy to sort out the truths and the lies from those stories.
The essential remains: I loved someone, and he loved me. We parted because we grew apart. It was painful but necessary for growth, and I am a stronger person for it. And so is he. Now we both wish each other happiness though our paths have diverged.
I’ve blogged a lot about the stories I tell myself about Y, the guy I met in Paris. And really, the closest thing to a steady boyfriend I had since breaking up with my high school boyfriend almost 5 years ago now. Poor me, I like to say sometimes.
Is it another story of picking the wrong person? Was love just not strong enough to conquer obstacles? Did he even open his heart to me like I did him, despite the fact we knew it would end? If i had known the outcome, would I have taken the first step on that path? Did he just not like me that much? Did we not have enough in common? Was it just the wrong time?
There are a lot of stories I tell myself. It is also SOOO tempting to try to hold, hold, hold clutch as tight as I can to this because who knows when I will meet someone like that again. It was totally by chance that we met, and I can be tempted to call it destiny. And I think of all the little personal details I was beginning to know, and how much he did not reveal. I wonder what he thought of me.
Sometimes I wonder about the mysterious force that makes two people not want to hang up the phone even though there is silence and they weren’t really talking about anything in particular at all. Sometimes I think that’s all there is to it, and when you say yes to life, and let that series of events culminating in that phone call unfold, you didn’t have to know it would lead to this moment to be enjoying the future you never even dared to imagine.
And now, as I struggle to keep up with my workload in business school, and just push through tasks I don’t find very enriching intellectually or practical, I am reminded of high school. Where I didn’t have very much time for relaxing, wasn’t really sure what the point of the whole enterprise was, and didn’t have a clear goal in sight. i thought the goal would make the slog a bit more worht it, but I never really settled on anything besides getting into “good” collegs. As it turns out, I had a great college experience and scholarship at least in part because of that hard work, but I could probably have had a good life if I had studied a little less in high school, or if I picked another college. But I wouldn’t be “me,” whoever that is, and in my head, I still see myself as my high school self, my college self, and I don’t recognize the way i feel today. I am just not motivated byt he same things I was when I was a teenager, or even last year. I’m truly not the same erson, and I think that’s all been to the good. Sometimes I feel frustrated living the life I planned earlier that doesn’t always seem to converge with my deepest meaning and struggle to come up with short term or long term plans, but when it comes down to it, I needed this experience to figure out what I “should” have been doing all along. But there’s no race to finding one’s passion, and I am not a static being. However, it’s important to be living it as much as possible. Which doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job to become an artist, but it does mean living the a life you are proud of and doing things you love to do, just because you love to do them. That’s what I’m looking for in a job, and while I want some lesser needs fufliled by my job, I know myself well enough now that nothing less will sustain me in the long haul. I am not one of those people that can/will go do a job they hate without looking for a way out. Right now though, my probably is finding a way in, and pebeing willing to tolerate, risk, uncertainty, change, and just having enough fiath to try something and see where it takes me. There is no choice forever and all time you know. But life is to short to ignore whatever drives you and makes you fly, not only as a service to yourself but for everyone you meet. The world needs more people living their dreams.
Speaking of which, I am also really worried about finding a job. It’s one of the few areas of my life where I believe I failed. I’m pretty happy with all the things that came from not finding a job, but the period of looking and not finding was one of the mos tdifficult in my life. And just the looking process has me exhausted form anxiety before even starting sometimes. I really do just need to have a little more faith!
And passion isn’t based on the past. Passion requires not leaving it entirely behind, but the passing over it, transforming it into something of value. Turning those common elements into something magical that nurtures rather than erodes.
So yes, i am going to try to forgive my past. And appreciate it, too. Because I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t made those same mistakes. And would I make them all over again? Probably. I’ve learned a lot, and that’s why I’m able to do better now. Though in the fturue, I will be learning from now, and my perception will have totally changed, and come from a poistion of greater emotional, spiritual, mental, an dmaterial ease as well.
Most of the conflict in this world has nothing to do with the present, it is always rooted in the past. So to live in the present, and to heal this wound in the past, it’s necssary to just try to be compassionate, forgiving, and patience. And maybe a little faith (well a lot of faith) helps too.