I don’t go back, at least I try not to. What I mean is that when making life decisions I don’t consider going back to what once was. I’m looking forward – like, “Where to next?”
In the early days of our marriage my husband and I had a lot of financial troubles. At one point we returned to a town and house where we had lived before. But that was at the request of someone else who wanted to hire me to do some work. That time I decided that if I went back things would have to be very different. I would make sure of that.
Well, they already were different because we had two children. I was doing a slightly different job and making a lot of new friends. It worked out for a while, but eventually the same issues showed up that had caused us to leave in the first place. Not terrible things, but things that were preventing us from living the life we wanted.
Don’t Look Back
At that time my husband suggested that we return to my hometown where we had been living before the current move. I prayed about it and I felt the answer was no, move forward not back. I had lived plenty of years in my hometown and I had no significant reason to go back except to visit my parents occasionally. I didn’t need to live there to visit them.
A couple times my husband thought he might want to live in the town where he was born. Not where he grew up but the town where he spent the first 6 years of his life. It was a rather remote place out in the countryside, and I suspected he felt drawn there because of the fond memories of the grandparents and family he lost when his parents divorced. I told him, “Going back won’t change your past. You’ve visited and reconnected with some family members and that’s good, but living there again won’t take your pain away.”
Interestingly, my husband didn’t want to live in the city where he grew up after his parent’s divorce because it was too confronting. A block still existed in his heart between himself and a family member there. That’s why he moved to where I lived. Sometimes it’s good to go somewhere new where you can invest your heart and put your dreams into action.
I wanted to live where he grew up, Sydney, AU, because it was a new and exciting place for me! But I understood that he needed separation from the past so he could experience new things.
Be Here Now
I read this iconic book by Ram Dass early in my teenage years. “Be Here Now”. It stuck with me. Wherever I am I try to relish the moment, what’s going on now. Often, when we want to go back, literally or figuratively, we are trying to change the past or experience the past again. Whether we had wonderful experiences or traumatic experiences we can get caught up in trying to relive or recreate what was. We can’t. The past is gone, there’s only now.
The value of looking at the past is in making sure we’ve learned the lessons life has gifted us. Some of those lessons may be of love and happiness, and some may be full of pain and sorrow. Either way, we can’t recreate or relive the past, except in our mind. But we can give the past an honored place in our memory having learned what we needed to learn. And with that, live joyfully in the present. See what’s new, what is the next lesson or challenge or experience.
Regardless of whether we physically revisit a place, or whether we’ve never moved away from our hometown, we need to be mindful of not getting stuck in the past. You could move to 100 different places and still be reliving the past in your mind. You can also stay right where you are and experience each moment with a new and open heart. The mind and heart have such a creative ability to mold reality!
It’s not easy to master the mind and heart, but that is our birthright and purpose. Learning to live in the moment takes practice. We have to be willing to let go of the past and move forward. It’s not easy because that sentimental part of our being wants to look back and hold on.
Lessons from Childhood
We should be like infants who live in a space of awe and wonder, eager to accomplish each new task their growing mind and body presents. And yet the infant also relishes his/her parent’s embrace and comfort, where he/she can feel secure and rest. Yet the infant is always ready to move forward to the next stage of growth. Imagine if they got stuck in one of those stages, or regressed, and refused to keep learning and growing!
It’s interesting that humans have very little ability to recall memories from before we were 3 years old. Imagine if you could visually pull up a memory of every time you tripped and fell while trying to learn to walk. Imagine if you could remember having your diaper changed, or the times you got diaper rash. Although our bodies store emotional memory, not being able to recall those and other moments in early life is a blessing. It allows us to keep having a fresh perspective in the moment.
But as we get older memory becomes an important part of learning life’s lessons, as long as we don’t get stuck. Traumatic experiences at any point in life can cause us to get stuck. Even just the normal transition of aging can cause us to want to stop time and stay where we are! Also, joyful past experiences can cause us to wish for things to be the way they were back then. But life doesn’t stand still and it doesn’t move in reverse.
Value the past but be here now …
Last year I had an overwhelming 7 months of revisiting the past while cleaning out my parent’s house. Most of us will have a challenge like this sooner or later in life when parents are aging or pass away, or when we downsize our own living situation. I’ve done both in the last 5 years.
I found that sharing my family’s story, photos, and even places and possessions with others was very therapeutic. Aside from writing blog posts, old friends and new friends and family came to visit me and help me with tasks. While selling family possessions and furniture buyers were often curious about the story behind these objects or why I was selling them. All of this was a way of treasuring my family and the experiences of my life while still moving forward. I was selling and giving away a lot as a way of valuing what I’ve had. I was reminiscing and sharing stories as a way of honoring the past without being trapped by it.
In forward motion
Recently my parent’s house sold and that event stirred up many emotions. It is final, the end of an era and a legacy of some sort. Grief comes in a variety of ways when there is a loss of any type. But I focused on the love, the treasured experiences I was privileged to have, and the way all of that has propelled me forward in life. I’m grateful that my real estate agent could find a buyer who will treasure the property as much as my parents did, by creating their own beautiful memories with their family.
This experience reminds me once again that life is always in forward motion, the present does not stand still. Each breath is new, each thought can spur an action or inaction. Actions and experiences create a lifetime that contributes to an era. Eventually we will all leave this physical world and another era will unfold upon the foundation of our own.