Letting Go of the Past; sometimes moving on can seem impossible.
Letting Go of the Past; sometimes moving on can seem impossible.
The song ‘One Moment in Time’ has been playing in my head on and off lately. I regularly have an ear worm playing, a by-product of meditation seemingly. This one started playing after a number of client sessions in which I noticed a similar pattern. In each of the cases the client had experienced a life changing event and was finding it hard to let go of it and move on. In each of the cases they wanted to move on but they were stuck in a thinking loop that kept bringing them back to it over and over again.
‘it isn’t supposed to be like this’ or ‘I wish it had never happened’.
The loop, although slightly different in each case, was tantamount to the same thing, ‘it isn’t supposed to be like this’ or ‘I wish it had never happened’. When I hear statements like this I have the greatest empathy, because I was in the place one time too, a number of years ago.
'When I was 23 my dad died of cancer and three years later my mother passed away'.
When I was 23 my dad died of cancer and three years later my mother passed away. This is nothing new to those who know me and those of you who know me, will also know that I consider those events as the greatest contribution to the person I am now and I am eternally grateful for all they taught me. This blog is not about what happened then but what happened afterwards.
I can remember clearly after my mum passed away telling a friend, at the time, that ‘it wasn’t supposed to be like this’. At 26 I felt utterly alone, I was an adult orphan and had no siblings living in Ireland. I found myself living alone and unable to process my grief. My initial reaction was to go out and get drunk once in a while and cry my heart out to anyone who’d listen. My next solution was to get involved in a relationship with someone who, although a good person, was definitely not for me. From day to day I just got on with things. I went to work and pretended like I was doing ok. I never cried when speaking about my mother, when sober, and used the standard phrase, ‘I have good days and bad days’. Alone, I lay on the kitchen floor and wailed my heart out most days, in fact every day for the first year. I railed against the fact that my life had changed in the blink of an eye and I was utterly helpless to change it, or so I thought.
‘Alone, I lay on the kitchen floor and wailed my heart out most days, in fact every day for the first year’.
You see, I never understood back then that real power doesn’t come from being able to control what happens to you, but really comes from how you respond to what happens to you. I wallowed in self-pity, I relished in my victimhood, feeling totally hard done by what life had thrown at me. I fantasized about how my life could have turned out and I glued myself to an imaginary spot in time thinking the more I focused on the past the less things would change and the closer I would be to the way things were supposed to be, the way they were before.
‘You see, I never understood back then that real power doesn’t come from being able to control what happens to you, but really comes from how you respond to what happens to you.’
Thankfully, life doesn’t work that way and things change whether you like it or not. As time passed I cried less, I got caught up in what was happening day to day and sometimes I even forgot how crap I actually thought my life was, but if you’d asked me I’d still have told you how awful it was, secretly hoping you’d agree so, I could feel vindicated in my self-absorption. My story was my truth, I had created a narrative of my life and I was going to live it with every breath I had in my body. The irony is not lost on me that in telling you this now I am still running the narrative, but thankfully it has turned around because, what was at the time the worst thing that happened to me, is in fact now the best.
After three years of putting my life on hold, I woke up one day with an epiphany. This is my life and I could waste it living in the past, and dishonour all that my parents had given me, or I could take charge of it and start to live the life I want. It’s not the first time I have taken a stand against feeling like a victim but this time was not just about taking responsibility for my life, it was about making a choice to be better, to be happy, to be different. I started to think about how I could be happy, how I could be grateful for what had happened and how I could begin to notice all I had learned and how strong I had become. My internal changes were my main focus initially and then I began to make changes in my external life too. I took on other work, that paid better, which allowed me to return to college after a few years of saving. I started to figure out what I wanted, who I wanted to be, and what kind of life I wanted to live. I chose to be single and live alone again and stopped looking back and started looking forward.
‘You see, I am ok with the time it took for me to move on, I needed to grieve, and I’m ok that I felt sorry for myself because one day I realised enough was enough’.
You see, I am ok with the time it took for me to move on, I needed to grieve, and I’m ok that I felt sorry for myself because one day I realised enough was enough. It suddenly came to me that my past may have shaped me but I couldn’t allow it to define my life and I definitely wasn’t going to let it define my future.
One of the most powerful emotions that clients often feeling when their life has changed is guilt, what if I’d done things differently, maybe I didn’t do enough, maybe it’s all my fault. Being able to let go of guilt is a big challenge but when you embrace the fact that things are the way they are and that there is nothing you can do to change the past but everything you can do to create your future then, you start to make better choices.
I believe we owe it to those we lose to live our life to the fullest when they no longer can. We owe it to ourselves when we have been abused to stand up and say ‘I matter’ and not allow those who have hurt us to continue to control our lives. We owe it to our children and loved ones when we make mistakes to make amends, to show that it’s ok to make mistakes because we are human and it is what we do afterwards that is most important. We owe it to everyone to be able to forgive and let go of the past. When we stop allowing the past to define us and use it as the fuel to our fire, when we begin to feel gratitude for what we have learned from our experiences then, we have a frame from which to view the past. The tragedies, the hurt, the illness, the loss, the heartache can all be a marker from which to take stock, to see how we’ve grown, to view what we’ve learned, and to begin to feel grateful.
‘One Moment in Time’ can be the beginning or the end, the choice is yours'.
Letting go of the past can be one of the biggest personal challenges you might face but you owe it to yourself, and to those you love, to stand firm in the present moment and grab the chance to shape your future into the one you want. ‘One Moment in Time’ can be the beginning or the end, the choice is yours.
Thank you for reading. If you are interested in finding out more about my coaching or training, check out the rest of my website or follow me on Facebook. You can email me at email@example.com or phone 00353868373582. Until next time, Elfreda