If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. – Lao Tzu
It’s taken me way too long to learn that hanging on to the past will only hurt you. And when I say ‘hanging on to the past’, I’m not talking about those great childhood memories. I’m talking about the bad ones..
The problem with always looking back at your past and anguishing over bad decisions, lost time, traumatic experiences.. is that you could of been spending that precious time enjoying the NOW.
It seems a bit ironic to me that one would look back and anguish over a lost moment when, in fact, by looking back, you’re doing the very thing that has caused you pain in the first place.
My Life-Changing Experience
Recently I’ve had one of the worst years of my life. I moved to a new city, lost a custody battle, fell pregnant and “lost” my dad – all within 12 months. The reason the word lost is in quotations is because that is truly how I feel – although technically not true.
A few days before my scheduled C-section for my last child my parents called to inform me that my father had been having horrible headaches and had gone for a scan which revealed a tumor at the base of his skull. He would be travelling to the city (they lived in a small town) the next day to await surgery.
I gave birth to my daughter on Tuesday and my father had his surgery the following day. My sister was supposed to call me that evening after the ‘routine’ surgery to remove the tumor was complete and to let me know how everything went. I never received a call.
When my father came out of surgery and the doctors tried to slowly bring him to, he awoke screaming and grabbing at his head while writhing in pain. They had missed (closing) a blood vessel that was bleeding into his brain and quickly increasing the pressure in his skull cavity. He was wheeled back into surgery and the dad I knew would be forever gone.
When my daughter was 4 days old I travelled the few hours to see my father and say ‘goodbye’ as we were not expecting him to wake up. The doctors had induced a coma in an attempt to control brain swelling and reduce possible damage.
I crumpled next to his hospital bed at the sight of him with all of those tubes and machines protruding from his body.
He was never the same. He lost the ability to walk, speak, and eat and developed dyspraxia. A year and a half later he’s improved slightly but is still a far cry from the father I remember him to be.
For a while I would look back and remember things he’d said and done with me before the surgery… It would make me very sad and I cried all the time. Even being around my father made me sad because I didn’t recognize the person in front of me. Eventually I had had enough.. it was time to do something about my mood.
How I Stopped Looking Back
1. Every time I catch myself reminiscing about something in the past and feeling blue, I put up a mental wall. I consciously make an effort to block it out.
2. I make an effort to be in the present. I decided I was going to do my best to enjoy each moment because I had already wasted so much time looking back in regret.
3. I say yes more. This way I won’t look back later and feel sad because I ‘missed out’.
4. I plan for the future. It feels good to have goals and accomplish them and it takes my focus away from the past and toward goals I’ve set and what I can do right NOW to start realizing them.