I have a tendency in my life to romanticize the past. It’s this bad habit of remembering all the good times and feelings, even if they were few and far between. I struggle to recognize the reality of how unhappy I was with whatever I am missing.
These feelings of longing aren’t just limited to my intimate relationships or people from my past. I miss the places I lived, careers I’ve had, and even drugs I’ve done. Some of this stems from regret for the choices I have made. Maybe I gave up too soon or stayed there too long.
The majority of the time I revisit the past and the things I miss, they are never quite the same as I remembered. They don’t feel the same. They don’t invoke the feelings in me that I hoped they would. The sex isn’t as good, the views aren’t as beautiful, the drugs never get me as high.
I’ve spent a great deal of my life brooding over the past. I sit and think about how I could have made different choices that may have led to a different outcome. Hoping that somehow I will get another shot at my past. It’s always the story of “well if I had just done X differently.” It becomes nothing more than an exercise in futility.
Habitually, I miss people, places and things for all the wrong reasons. A fair amount of guilt and shame tend to accompany my feelings of nostalgia. I often wonder why I spend so much time ruminating over what has been done. There’s nothing I can do to change what’s happened; so why do I let it drain my life today? I know that previous statement is very obvious and clearly not profound. But it’s something I always struggle to accept.
And there in lies the key to this life lesson; acceptance. Acceptance is the only thing that can give me freedom from my past. It allows me to find inner peace and say goodbye to what once was. One of the most quoted pieces of literature on acceptance come from The Big Book of AA:
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”
Acceptance is the most obvious, yet powerful tool I can think of when it comes to dealing with the past. It should be the most simple principle to apply because its makes the most sense. Whats done is done! There’s no time machine. I can’t right the wrongs I have done. But, I can accept was has occurred and move forward making positive changes in my life to ensure that I don’t make those mistakes again.
Many people before me have said that the past belongs exactly where it is; in the past. It’s normal and natural to miss something or someone. Reminiscing over the good times. However, If I want serenity and happiness today I need to leave my past alone. I need to live in the present and build for the future. I can draw on the experiences and the lessons I have learned to be a better person today and in the future. Spending time and energy focusing on what could have been keeps me from creating what will become.
“Yesterday is history and tomorrow’s a mystery
But baby right now, its just about you and me”