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The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
-- Mark Twain
Let go of the past and live for today
Today I spent a couple hours writing this blog. And shed a few tears while doing so. This is more for myself than for anyone else. But it is necessary, for me, to do this.
I have a couple new students, a father and son, and the father says he will be asking me to add another hour per week to work with his twin sons. And a student that will be with me for 3 months only, but in that time she will be doing 10 hours per week of lessons. I still have more time available for more students, so am hoping for more. Just today I got an email from someone asking for information. So things are going well, not great, but well. Two or 3 more students would make a big difference.
"live for today". Three simple words. But are they? Just what do they mean? Not just a simple meaning, on the surface, but really, thoughtfully, mean? "Let go of the past". Five simple words. But are they? Simple? Some people seem to be able to do that, and others not. Maybe it's not so simple.
Our present and our future are affected by our past. And not just what we did, but also by what others did to us. By how situations affected us. These past experiences define and shape our present and future, and to what extent they do this is up to us, now. Do we let the past define us? Do we let it shape our future? The answers are as varied as us people are. Nobody can change what happened in the past, but we can change how we view it. And that is what will change our life.
I generally do not have a problem putting, and leaving, the past in the past. I have never had that problem, in all my life. How? Why? I honestly don't know, it is just the way I am. Some people, though, have live with the opposite - they live in the past, let the past rule their life today.
What have I had in my past that might affect my life today? If I let my past rule my present? Well, in my immediate family, my grandparents, all four, have long ago died. Both my parents also, long ago died. Three of my brothers have died, yes, three brothers. My daughter was still-born, she never got the chance to see the light of day. The doctors had no explanation for why. Just 24 hours before she had a strong heartbeat. Then at her birth she arrived with none. My wife of 28 years, Cheryl, died at the young age of only 48, by a massive stroke. But these losses do not rule my life. I remember them clearly. I see my brothers, I see Amy, her tiny fingers, toes, her beautiful face, lying there in her white casket, I see Cheryl next to me on the sofa, just hours after a "minor" surgery. She sleeping, still feeling the effects of the anesthetic, but then never waking up. I see her lying in the hospital bed, all our family members in the room around her, and I see the nurse turn off the ventilator. I remember her last breath, and saying goodbye. These are all such painful memories, difficult memories. But they do not rule my life today. I remember these family members every day, at some point in the day, a memory comes into my mind about at least one of them. And I remember, what?, the last moments? The last memorial? Yes, of course, but right after that, I remember the good times.
I remember Ron and Mike as teenagers, always fighting with each other. Why were they fighting so much? That I don't know, they just did. I remember being scared a few times because of their fighting. But then they grew up, served in the military, and started families. They were "amicable" friends/brothers, but were they ever truly loving brothers? I don't think so. but I also remember the times when they were good with me, each in his own way, and those I remember more than the fights. They both died of cancers.
I remember Rick and the Harley Davidson he restored, in Portland. I was quite young, but I remember that motorcycle, and the colors - orange blended into black, beautiful. A full-dress HD 1200. I remember how proud he was of that bike. I remember him marrying into a "ready- made family" as he called it. He married Nancy and she already had two teenage daughters, Sandy and Lori. And out in the garage Rick had a couple more bikes, if I remember correctly a Bull Taco and a Triumph. The Triumph that he was riding when he came to a premature end to his life.
I remember my mother, a strong, pretty woman, raising so many boys by herself. She worked as a waitress for many years, then in an office pushing papers for a government agency. But she always put her boys first. We never had much money, but we always had food on the table. She loved us all, as in my mind I see her loving us all equally, no one more than another. I remember a time or two her using Dad's belt on my butt because of some stupid thing I did. Did I love her any less for that spanking? Absolutely not, because I knew my Mom loved me and I knew that what I did hurt her, and I knew that the spanking was the right thing for me to get. I remember my Mom as a hard-working, and very loving, mother. She died because of cancer, she was a life-long smoker.
My Dad. I have almost no memories of my Dad. I remember him building the fence around the yard and me helping, though very little, by holding the nails for him. I remember the patio and garden being built, the cement being mixed and poured to make the patio. That's all. Those two memories. What about things he said to me? I have no memories of anything my Dad ever said to me. That is sad. I wish I could remember something that he said to me. My Dad was a long-haul truck driver, after retiring from the Navy. If my memory serves me right, he was gone for three weeks, home for 1 week, gone 3 weeks, home 1 week, ad nauseum, always, always, always. I have been told that he loved his sons, but I don't know about that personally. I do know, that when I was playing saxophone in a concert, he wasn't there, Mom was, because Dad was driving. Dad died because of Multiple Sclerosis.
Amy. Cheryl and I were looking so forward to her coming into our world. We had David and Austin, and now a little girl was to be added to our family. Cheryl was so excited, all through the 9 months of pregnancy. We were careful. We were sure to take care of what she did, what she ate. And the check-ups with the doctor were always positive - the baby is healthy, everything is coming along just fine. Right up to the final 24 hour check-up before she went into labor. I remember being in the room with Cheryl, holding her hand, helping her to remember to breath. This is hard, I have tears in my eyes now. We are there together, going through this together, and then suddenly there is a flow of blood. One of the nurses ran out of the room to get the doctor, other nurses were running here and there getting towels and things they needed, and one of them told me I have to leave the room. I didn't want to, Cheryl didn't want me to leave her, but the nurse pulled my out. I remember seeing the red floor, red because of so much blood. I remember. I'm crying now because I have never seen so much blood before, in all my life. And it was coming from Cheryl. The nurse pulled me out, the doctor came running in. Running. Not walking fast. I need to keep writing this, but I am crying and it isn't easy, remembering this. I don't know how long it was, I think just a few minutes. But the room was quiet. No baby crying. Just Cheryl crying. The doctor came out, not looking like a man who delivered a baby, living and crying, but looking like a man who just lost something very special, - my baby. I walked by in quickly and saw her, lifeless, on Cheryls chest, Cheryl crying. I leaned over and kissed her and Amy. She let me hold Amy, beautiful, but lifeless, and I cried, This is a painful memory. At the funeral home, in a room where we had her in her little white casket, David and Austin came in so they could see their little sister. The one time. Then she was gone. I don't know what memories they have now, but my memories are still very vivid. And here I am now, crying while writing this, because of the memories, the pain. All those months Cheryl and I were watching her grow inside her. Cheryl was devastated. And a few years later we decided to try again, for another child, but it never happened. A part of her life came and went, never to be replaced by something else, or another little life. No happy ending to this paragraph, sorry about that.
So what did all these memories, all these pains, do to me? Each time someone leaves us and goes into eternity, we have a choice. We have to choose how we will let that affect our life. We can choose to dwell on the deaths, or we can choose to dwell on the lives as they were before the deaths. I choose to remember the lives. To remember the deaths is to feel hurt, to feel let down, by a loved one. And that feeling of hurt, pain, gets recycled in our mind, year after year, and we become angry, bitter people. I choose to remember the lives, the good times. Yes I remember the deaths but I don't dwell on that part of the story of my life. I choose to remember the good times.
Sometimes we have hurts, painful experiences other than deaths in the family, and these can be just a devastating. Maybe they shouldn't be just as devastating to our life, but they can be if we let them. A bad relationship, with a family member or a lover, can be just as terrible as any lost life, if we let them. And some people do just that.
I know a person who lets the hurts of the past rule his/her life. And I mean rule it thoroughly. What is the problem with this? After all, this person still lives his/her life every day, still works every day, still has friends. Well, what happens is this: this person becomes bitter, angry, sad. And these feelings are not just kept hidden inside, but they do manifest themselves in the person's daily life, and other people can notice. So in the end, this person's relationships are hurt, they are not as strong as they would otherwise be. New relationships are much harder to form, especially boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. This person has a tendency to talk about the hurts, the bad past relationships, too much. They tell their new friends all about them. They always have these bad past experiences at the forefront of their mind, like it just happened that day. It's always fresh in their mind. They rehash all the bad experiences, every one of them, continually. Hardly a day passes without them remembering the bad past experiences. These experiences cause us much pain, so why think about them every day? Why write about them every time they write? They don't want to forget that so-n-so hurt them, so that maybe some day in the future they can use the as a defense weapon, as a way to try to hurt that person who hurt them. And in this process, all they are doing is hurting themselves, causing their own life to be less than it should be. They don't experience the joy that a new friendship can bring because they are too wrapped up in their past.
So what can this person do to get out of this situation? Some would say "put the past behind you and leave it there" without any thought of just how difficult that can be. Just because I can do it so easily, naturally I suppose, doesn't mean another person can do so. There are many web sites that have instructions on how to put the past in the past and leave it there. I've seen one with "three steps to put the past in the past", others with six steps, 8 steps, 10 steps, 11 steps, and one with 21 steps. Really? I have to go through 21 steps to put the past in the past? Seems to be a bit much to me, but okay, it's just much more detailed than the other sites. They all have basically the same information, just broken down into different levels.
I think the biggest step is to just make a decision - Do I let the past rule my life, or not? That first decision is very important. We have to come to terms with the fact that the past is controlling my thoughts, my thinking is obscured by what happened to me in the past, so now I must decide, do I continue on this track? or try to change to a new track? It's not easy, but it is a choice we have. Who, or what, controls our life? Me? or my past bad experiences? If you decide the answer is "Me, I control my life, today" then you have taken the first step to regaining control of your life and living your life for today, not living it in the past.
So what now? You know you need to take control, you know you need to put the past in the past, but just how do you do that? You've lived through the experience, you have survived it. Now take some time to let it "sink in". You need time to come to terms with the entirely of the situation. This might be days, weeks, or months, maybe years of it was devastatingly bad. In my experience, I would take time away from everything, get away from everything, and just think, meditate, about the experience, and all the facets of it, how it affected me in both positive and negative ways. But I would do this away from all distractions. Where I lived that was relatively easy, the open, quiet desert was very close, and I would be spend many hours, many days, out there, sitting in the sunshine, listening to the birds and the breeze, and let the experience flow through my mind. I would realize that my life isn't over, that I still have a future. You may not have a big, wide open desert to go out into, but there will be a park or some other open space somewhere in your area, you can go into and just site, relax and meditate. This process takes time, not just a day or two or three. But soon, the bad experience is not at the forefront of my every thought. Soon the memories are not of the bad experience, yes, they are still there, but they are pushed back, and the memories at the front are the good ones, the good times, the smiling times. Those are at the forefront of my memories of my past experiences.
Now at this time the decision has been made - I will take control and live for today, the past is the past and there is nothing I can do the change what happened. What happened, happened. So be it. I have changed the position of the bad memories and the good memories, thereby bringing the good memories to the front of my mind. All good so far. What now? What do I do to maintain this state? One thing I found very helpful is to try to busy my mind with something else entirely different. For me that was music. I wrote some songs, bought a digital recorder, and learned how to record those songs. That kept my mind centered on something other than the past. Those bad past experiences can't flood my mind if it is full of something new and positive. My mind has only the good memories in the front, and this new "hobby", and there is no room for the bad memories to come back. If they do, and they do from time to time, I just push them back, telling myself "I don't want to remember those memories right now, they are negative memories, and I don't need those in my mind right now". And I think about something else. And no, it's not easy, nothing is easy in this process, but if we want to live a life for today, not ruled by the past, we have to step out and try, and actually do something active, to make it happen. It won't just happen by itself, by some magic. I wrote about the past experiences of deaths in my family, and when those memories come into my mind I remember them, then I say to myself "this is a new day, and that was in the past, so now I live for today. Yes I miss you, but I have to live for today." And I put those memories back on the shelf in the back of my mind. They are always there, never forgotten, but they are in the back, put away, where they won't take over my every thought, day after day.
Eventually you have to just come to the point of acceptance. You won't always be able to get the answers you want. The questions of "why", the "what ifs" and the "maybes" may never be answered, or not answered satisfactorily. There is no point in concentrating on those, don't waste your time trying to figure out all the answers. The time will come when you will realize there just arean't going to be any satifactory answers, so you just have to throw up your hands and say "Okay, it is what it is, I accept that." And then it is time to move on, and live for today.
When your thoughts start to wander back to the bad experiences, reign then in, tell yourself "No, I choose to remember the good parts" or change what you are doing to something that will keep your mind busy so it is not wandering back and grabbing those hurts off that back shelf.
In those past bad experiences the entire fault of the experience is typically not on just one person. As you reflect on what happened, you should be able to see it for what it really was, for what really happened, and then, if necessary, you can forgive yourself for whatever part in you had. You might find it helpful to contact the other person, in any way you see fit, and forgive them. This doesn't mean you want to rekindle whatever relationship was there, it simply means you hold no hard feelings for them anymore. If they accept great, if not, that is their problem not yours. You did what you need to do, and you can feel freed because of it.
Don't compare your life now, your situation now, with your life or situation in the past. You should not use your past as an excuse for why you are the way you are now. You have today, so make the most of it. Be positve, smile, and try to avoid thinking negatively. Try to avoid the memories that make you depressed or sad.
Don't let your life be defined by the pains of your past. It's not healthy for you, and it causes you to feel more stressed, you'll have more difficulty focusing on what's important. And it also effects not just your life, but the lives of the people around you. How? They see it in you, the unhappiness, the stress, and it comes out in your attitude, and they have to put up with it, too. So every day you choose to live with the pain of a bad past experience is a day your loved ones also have to live with that pain. That's not good for you, and it's not fair for anyone else around you.
This is a little different, yet related: Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” When we are holding feelings of hate, it eventually gets the best of us. Those feelings take control of us. We forget why we have these feelings of hate, or what it is we hate, and whom we hate – we simply hate for the sake of hating. And then this follows: we begin to hate ourselves as well.
Everything and everyone you hate takes up permanent space in both your mind and heart. So if you want to be rid of something or someone from your mind, don’t hate. Instead, try to disconnect yourself from that past experience.
I am no professional therapist or anything even remotely related to that. I just write what I feel, know and believe. And this I know: some people have unresolved, bad, past experiences, and they let them rule their life in the here and now, and in their future, and none of that is good. And until they come to terms with their past, their here and now, their future, will always be less than what it can be. Less than what it should be. And that is a sad thing, indeed.
These are just some thoughts that have accupied my mind recently. They stem from a relationship I was in, but not anymore. I don't know if I want to have her back. On the one hand I would, and on the other, no, there's just too much baggage being dragged along. Yes, I miss her, but not the rest of the "stuff". I do hope the best for her in whatever comes her way, and I hope she can come to terms with her bad past experiences that appear to get in the way of her life now. Only then will she be able to have the meaningful relationship I know she wants and is looking for.
That's about all for now, till next time, take care!