“Holy hell that went really fast” is all I could think this weekend as my friends celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Not only was this an opportunity to celebrate this couple’s dedication but also a chance to reconnect and reminisce. We talked about people that we had known, teachers that we had loved or hated, where we grew up and how it had changed so much that we could no longer afford a house in our working class neighborhood. I may have visited the past this weekend but I don’t want to reside there.
In my practice, I see two kinds of people. Those who bask in past glory or those who dwell in pain. Neither of these is a good place to be. For those who suffered trauma or abuse, the past needs to be healed. And, for those who glorify or romanticize the past, they need to become more mindful and relish their current accomplishments.
According to studies, we don’t remember the past accurately. We remember it more like a snapshot and less like a movie. Our desire to reside in memories helps no one. It is especially unhelpful to ourselves as it stops us from living in the present. The past cannot be changed. We can’t do anything differently or press the “redo” button. Letting go of past trauma and mistakes will be freeing and help us to move into a much healthier place in life and live fully in today.
My 91 year old mother often reminded me of the importance of living in the “now” as she was always quick to say, “it goes so fast.” As I get older, I couldn’t agree with her more. It goes quickly and for whatever reason, living in our “yesterdays” means that we miss living our “todays”. The only thing we have is NOW.
Remember that tomorrow, today will be part of your past. How many do you want to go by before you actually start to live? Staying in the present while remembering, healing or forgiving the past can be the healthiest place any of us can be.
How to live in the present
1. Become grateful- Whether you are a survivor of the past or it’s hero, be grateful for the gift of having lived your past. Then be grateful for today and your strength to have come this far.
2. Become present- Do you catch yourself thinking about the “Golden Days”? If you believe the best years are behind you, you will miss the opportunities and blessing of today. Appreciate your past accomplishments but live today with the same energy that you did in days gone by. If the past was the best, it becomes difficult to live our lives today and dream of the future.
3. Process pains of the past – Often people either ignore their pain or dwell in it. When you do this, you miss out on the joys of the life that you have today. If you stay in the pain, either consciously or unconsciously, it can lead to depression, anxiety and addiction. If you need to heal from the past, get the help from a professional who is trained to help you heal.
4. Forgiving yourself- Forgiving yourself is key in being able to move forward. Too often, people revisit their past mistakes and can’t forgive themselves for what they have done or haven’t done. It’s important to remember who you were at the time and your circumstances. It may be helpful to find a picture of yourself at that point in your life. You weren’t the person then that you are now. You made your decisions based on the information that was available. If you can’t forgive yourself, find a professional who can help you through it.
I hope that these tips will help you make the most of TODAY and all the “today's” to come!