It is hard not to spend time looking back at things and obsessing on the past. However, as George Santayana famously said, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. So how should we look back just enough to learn from our mistakes, whilst moving forward. Personally, I do not want to be one of those looking back so far while moving ahead that I trip over. I am clumsy enough without setting myself up for failure.
Our pasts are what shape us, although I also think our visions for the future have a lot to do with determining the people we will become. Some like to plan every little detail of their lives out, anxious not to make the same mistakes repeatedly while others simply wing it. I have always chosen to attempt to learn from others mistakes. I reasoned that this would certainly save time, although I seemed to always find time to make plenty of my own.
I know that I spend way too much time obsessing on the past, agonising over every little memory and wondering how I could have been so foolish, or so blind. Hindsight is 20/20 after all. How could I have been so naive? So willing to throw myself under the bus for the sake of others, who would not have so much as thought to do the same for me?
I think a lot of my problems stemmed from my willingness to put others ahead of me. I reasoned that I could not attempt to be happy if those around me were miserable and would go out of my way to improve everyone else’s lives. Usually at the expense of my own happiness and at times, sanity. Now, I am certainly no saint. I have a mean streak just like everyone else. I was just always too soft to show it. The only time “the bitch” would be unleashed was in defence of others. Usually my mum or siblings. I always hated seeing people getting picked on. And although I was small for my age, and quiet, I would always throw myself into a fight in defence of others.
Looking back, we get to reconnect with those that we have lost and keep their memories alive. I have lost a number of incredibly special people to me and for a long time I couldn’t think of any of these family or friends without my eyes filling with tears. I realised that I was concentrating too much on what had been instead of living the life I had left and looking towards what will be. One of the hardest things about losing people is when you really just want to have a chat with them. Discuss what is happening on a favourite television show or ask advice. I have never felt more alone than when I was going through my divorce and had lost all of those whose advice I would have sought. I remember standing at the end of the jetty where my Grandmothers ashes were scattered and literally screaming at her for no longer being around. I shocked myself that day. I was never much for screaming and the emotional intensity left me feeling incredibly drained. I remember going back to my parents place and drinking bottle after bottle of cheap red wine, desperate to numb the ache I felt.
I suppose one of the hardest things in life is our inability to predict the future. This is one of the things that keeps it interesting, yet also makes it next to impossible to plan for. Should we plan for the worst and hope for the best? Throw caution to the wind and just live every moment to its fullest? I certainly don’t have an answer for this. I am stuck somewhere between the two. I like to live cautiously although my heart longs to soar and feel freedom. I am a homebody who dreams of casting off material possessions and holing up in a little cottage near sea swept cliffs to ponder life, write and live in peace.
I hope you were not reading this post expecting any answers, especially meaning of life kinda stuff – although if you want to know the meaning of life, the universe and everything I have it on good authority that the answer is in fact 42.
If you have made it this far, let me leave you with this thought. Don’t refuse to look back and forget where you come from and what you have been through. These are the things that provide us with strength and show us the hardships we have faced and conquered. As well as this, make sure you are not looking too far ahead and always searching the horizon. What you are looking for will not be there and you could spend your entire life missing what is around you in the moment. Keep one eye on the past, one eye on the present (and assuming you don’t have more than two eyes) keep yourself in the present.