We all know the old saying “the windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror for a reason,” right? Strangely enough, I’ve come in contact with more people who have a hard time letting go of the past than ones who are persistently looking out the front window… myself included. I have never been one to call the kettle, but it’s often hard to ascertain just how much living in the past truly can paralyze your future.
I’ve always been one to enjoy nostalgia… those moments of looking back on fond memories, events, special moments and days that have left lasting impressions on our mind, and often our heart as well. Heck, we can’t even get on Facebook these days without the engine itself reminding us what we were doing at this time last year.. 3 years ago.. 6 years ago. Are those memories sometimes painful to you like they are to me? Why must things that we are trying to ‘put to bed’ consistently rear their ugly head in the form of a shared Facebook post, an acquaintance you haven’t seen in years who just happens to be on the frozen food isle of HEB on the day you were barely making it up to put your yoga pants on and buy yourself some frozen pizza for dinner? It seems the times that “the past” starts creeping in is not in those moments of excitement, bliss, bountiful joy and progress… it is on the days when getting the dirty clothes from the hamper into the washer seems like you are fighting a 900 lb. gorilla in wading boots.
I’m not certain who might be reading this that has something incredibly heavy on their heart. A “past” something that just won’t go away… won’t leave your heart and mind and go to a place far, far away so you can find peace and move forward; but should you be reading this in the midst of that exact struggle, I’d like to speak some words of “acquired” (might be better stated as “beat the hell out of until you learn the hardest of hard ways”) knowledge into you: if you don’t leave the past there – where it belongs, it will haunt your future for years to come. I’m not expecting anyone to read that and declare I am some kind of Socrates for having re-stated something that is prevalent in just about any self-help book, motivational video, quote website or blog you read. In fact, I, myself, have read that exact same thing over and over again until I am blue in the face and never truly listened. That is the problem… we often listen to respond, not to hear. Let me get to the “meat” of the story and perhaps it will speak more to your heart.
A year ago this past weekend, I was exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally drained, hungover, sunburned and had blisters on my feet. Myself, along with an army of over 600 people, had successfully assembled, hosted and rocked one of the largest fundraising events in the state of Texas. With well over a million dollars given to help with the financial burdens of cancer treatment, this “benefit” was so much more than just a live and silent auction, raffle, food and drink. A little community of less than a couple thousand rallied together their resources, talents and tenacity to stand against cancer and firmly behind the family suffering through it. This morning (Sunday), a friend tagged me in one of those all-too-painful “a year ago today” posts. You know them all too well… the ones where you probably wouldn’t have remembered that such an emotional event happened on this exact day/weekend a year ago if Facebook hadn’t reminded you. My heart (and stomach) sank. It was one of those moments where you know letting your mind slip back into that moment a year ago.. the memories created a year ago… the tears you cried that day and for so many forward because of the cause of that weekend… was going to surely set the mood for the rest of your day. I wanted to be “nostalgically strong” and remember all of the good and blessings that came from that weekend a year ago, but instead I spiraled back into the past… the way it used to be, the events of the weekend, the things that had happened that weekend (for me) that so few people even knew about; and just like that, my day was ruined. I reminded myself that the past doesn’t have to hurt like this, it can serve simply as a reminder of events that happened that shaped my life; but that wasn’t what my brain wanted to let happen. Instead, it wanted to wander off into the place that we all know is a huge “danger zone.” One that should be marked with bright yellow “CAUTION” tape so as not to let anyone else fall into the horrible pit of remembrance. I wanted to tell myself “suck it up and be strong, move on, he is in a better place now and you are blessed to have been part of such an awesome event;” but somehow I couldn’t. So I opened the Facebook post, commented exactly what my strong woman on the outside brain told me to say, and turned off my phone. I drove in silence for almost 3 hours mauling the thoughts around in my head. Living in the past, living in the events of that weekend that changed my life and so many others’ from then on…. agonizing that I let myself slip into the doom of the past instead of looking through that front windshield of my truck driving down IH-10. I prayed, I turned on a Joel Osteen sermon on my podcast, I stopped at Buc-ees and got chocolate, but I couldn’t get it all out of my head.
Why am I even sharing all of this with a group of random strangers reading some blog written by a crazy woman with not enough time on her hands, yet too much in her brain? Because I want anyone reading this to be reminded that no matter how strong, tenacious, goal-crushing, Superwoman we might be, the past is an inconquerable BEAST at times. From people who you don’t even quite know HOW you know, commenting on posts you were tagged in on Facebook to a world where kindness is an all-but-forgotten value, we tell ourselves that being strong is the right thing to do. Being vulnerable is for the weak and unaccomplished, not us “strong women” who can handle anything. May I share something from the heart and mind of someone who is probably looked at by MANY people as exactly that? My past ate me alive for the last year of my life. Literally, ate my lunch. Daily! Things I did wrong, people I let stay in my life for too long, friends I felt like I didn’t want to lose no matter how much they probably did nothing to try and stay. Yet daily I meet people who comment on how smart I am, how strong I am – “an intimidating woman who knows exactly what she wants and needs.” Although those words are so kind and flattering, I’d be lying if I told you I woke up everyday feeling like I could conquer the world with perfectly applied makeup, beautifully curled hair and an outfit to kill. In fact, most mornings I trip over my dog on the way to the bathroom, zit cream from the night before all over my face instead of just on the 12 zits I put it on before bed and unattractive sideboob like nobody’s business. My closet NEVER offers me up what I seem to think might look remotely professional that day, no matter how many items I added to it the week before, and my lack thereof perfect curls can be summed up in two words – It’s Texas! So before you go worshipping someone for their perfectly put together life (as seen from your perch high above it all), and thinking you are the only one who has a hard time finding enough hours in the day to pray the past away, remember this: the past is usually never real pretty; we don’t remember the pretty moments, we remember the ones that scarred us. The battle to let go of things, and, more importantly, PEOPLE who don’t belong in our lives any longer simply because forward progress is the only type of progress – that battle is the hardest battle you will EVER fight. And you aren’t alone. There isn’t a soul in the world (no matter how happily or vivaciously they live their life on Facebook) that hasn’t struggled with the past – letting it go, learning from it, leaving it there. God doesn’t give us foresight in the same amounts He gives us hindsight. Our past is never “clean” – it is evidence of a life of lessons, pain, growth, loss… evidence of LIFE! But it doesn’t have to haunt you. When you question why and how another door has not opened for you yet, don’t forget to look within and ask yourself the biggest question – have you closed the door to the past so you can reach forward instead of continuing to reach back for the doorknob?
As promised, and because it is something that has become common practice for me in my hand-written journaling prior to this blog, I would like the opportunity to close each and every blog in prayer. If that’s not your cup of tea or doesn’t sit well with you, welcome to America- what a blessing we have in that we enjoy the freedom of choice (now go thank a soldier for that). Should you wish to continue forward in closing in prayer with me, I only ask one thing: when you get done reading and repeating this prayer to yourself, you take a moment of silence to quickly pray for a friend or neighbor that you know is struggling through something related to the message you hear in each blog. The power of prayer is something that we should NEVER take for granted nor dismiss… it is lifeblood to the foundation of all faiths and it honestly just feels really dang good to pray for someone who might have confided their struggles in you. So, if you will, pray with me . . . Heavenly Father, we come to you today with open hearts, open minds… ready and willing to receive the will YOU have laid out for us, Lord, not ours. If today we should stumble, make us humble and honest enough to pray for a better tomorrow knowing it is not a bad life, just a bad day when we believe in you and your plan. Lord I ask that you lift the burdens off those who might be reading this blog with a heart heavy with grief, loss, trouble, uncertainty, pain… Lord take that pain from them like only you can, and help them to remember that pain is only temporary and if you didn’t send us through the valleys, we wouldn’t know the coming joy of the mountaintops. May we never lose sight of the fact that your perfect will is far better than any plan we might have conjured up for ourselves. Help us not to put our hands in the mix and short-circuit your master wiring plan of our life and destiny by designing our own and then being angry when it doesn’t work out. Lord we promise to honor your word, your teachings and your commandments and to be always-mindful that your door is always open for us to talk to you about anything – for we often forget that those things that trouble our hearts and minds are already on yours because we are your children and you are omniscient to our needs. Lord hear our prayers now as we spend a moment in silence lifting others up so that we may further glorify you!