There was a time when my past dictated my present and future.
Perhaps you’ve been there—or are there right now.
My past was behind me, sure, but it lived through me, negatively impacting the present. I channeled my energy into finding answers as to why certain things had happened to me.
I wrestled with what I could have done differently, or what I should be doing. I looked to others to place blame, as if doing so would bring a brighter light to my present. I tossed and turned at night regretting past decisions that had put my family and I in the financial hole we found ourselves in.
As I kept reliving the darkness of my past, the present became even darker.
My relationship with my wife grew thick with tension; the authenticity of my relationships became stale. The areas in which I worked and played became toxic from the voice in my head leading the way.
I was a lit fuse, never knowing when I was about to explode from an unnecessary reaction.
The more I lived through what had caused such pain and stress, the more pain and stress it caused me in the present moment. It even traveled through me to those around me.
Then something happened.
The big a-ha moment
It hit me that each and every moment—big, small and those in between—are the exact moments writing my story. They are the moments creating my future and the legacy I pass on to my son. These moments are where life is lived. And I was glossing over them.
Change isn’t something we seek to find, though a commitment to bettering ourselves leads us there; change, rather, is what seeks us. The knowledge of when precisely we’re ready to change presents itself through opportunities we must be willing to see and intentionally act on.
I had a burning deep within me to change.
I knew, without really knowing, that I had to trust this desire and follow it. I committed to a journey of intentional self-growth. I wrote, I journaled, I meditated, I reflected, I read books, I grew curious, I connected wholeheartedly with people. I listened.
As the dark pockets of my past continued to navigate my present and future, I worked to push through it by focusing on one thing; being selfish. It became my primary purpose.
Selfish, not in the egotistical sense, but in the sense of taking care of myself first in order to give my best self to others later.
I realized the life I was living wasn’t the life I was meant to live, or the person I was meant or wanted to be. I was hurting too many people around me. I was sabotaging too many relationships I cherished, and I was creating dark clouds above everyday experiences I dreamt about. Most importantly, I was adding more and more artificial layers onto myself, masking who I was at the core.
Shifting the lens
As I traveled deeper into this journey of intentional self-growth, how I perceived the world around me began to change. Experiences became richer, relationships became more genuine, the present moment was just that—present.I wasn’t living through my past’s pain any longer. Instead that pain became my savior.
I began to shift the lens in which I saw my past. I was rewriting it; not necessarily the what or how I had done it, but the why.
I became grateful for the dark experiences that I had experienced. I’ve come to appreciate it because of the path it has led me on. I give it credit for the internal transformation I have experienced, and continue to experience.
Rick Warren says, we are the products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it. The past shapes who we are today and who we become tomorrow. But it’s our choice as to the form it takes.
We can choose to live through the past’s pain, or we can realize that the past is made up of small building blocks equipping us for our future selves. I was meant to experience and go through that pain in order to get to where I am today emotionally, physically and spiritually.
There are moments where I dip back and forth from the the lens in which I see the world and my own experiences. But I always end up wearing the one with gratitude, knowing the feeling that accompanies it. This is part of the process of self-growth and the scenery we see along our life’s journey; both the dark and the light exist. It’s how we respond to the dark that brings about the light (tweet that!)
Grab your journal and use the following writing prompt to start freeing yourself from your past:
In which recent situation(s) has the pain of my past affected my present?
Consider if there is someone you need to forgive. Or, if there is something you need to forgive yourself for?
What are you still holding on to?