We get conflicting messages about our personal past. “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”. “Let bygones be bygones”. “Forgive and forget. Relieve and regret”. “Keep moving forward and don’t live in the past”. It can leave you feeling whiplash. Is what happened to me before relevant? Do I just forget everything and keep going like nothing happened? Will I be happier if I just move on? Am I running from myself? Am I carrying baggage? Am I running with baggage or running with scissors? It’s all so crazy and confusing.
But whether you know it or keep it firmly out of your mind, who you have been and what you have experienced informs who you are now. To be dramatic about it, if you are reading this you are taller than 24″ and more than likely no longer need baby pull up pants or strained peas. You needed them once upon a time (or your parents thought so. I mean, who actually needs strained peas?) and now you don’t. Even though you may not have conscious memory of the events, in your body is that memory and it influences who you are today. Even more so do the things that you do remember, the things you were taught, the things you saw others doing. Good or bad. It is in how we choose to deal with our past that forms the tapestry that is our lives today.
Living in the past, or as I call it “Talking to Ghosts”, doesn’t do much good unless you are doing it for a very brief time in order to heal some past hurt or recall something that you have been troubled with or curious about for some time. Carrying around the past as the present just keeps you from living fully in the present. But forgetting the past completely denies you the wisdom that you gained through living your life. And easy or hard, you have gained wisdom. If you put your hand on a hot surface and get burned, you won’t take that specific action again AND you will learn to check surfaces for heat for the rest of your life. But you can choose whether that makes you afraid of heat and flinch at every moment that could cause you to be near heat, or it could fine tune your awareness of heat so that you become a much better cook, or it could lead you to be the best fireperson in the state. It’s up to you. The past informs your future, but your choices weave that future into a reality. What future will you choose?