Post #5 – Living in the Past

Author Jen Parker(Jen)
Sometimes when I’m writing I feel as if I’m clinging to the past, dredging it up once again. I’ve read, and I’ve been told numerous times that the healthiest action one can take is to just let go. I remember for years nodding my head in agreement when my mom would say, “you just need to let it go.” In my mind and sometimes out loud, I would ask, “but how?”

I never knew or even imagined that it was my choice to make.  I was triggered by everything that either happened to me, near me, or around me.  I spent most of my life feeling as if I had done something wrong, upset someone, or caused bad things to happen to others. I was an emotional mess and on some days I still am. The difference now is that I  know the choice is mine as to whether and how I want to react to something or someone.  In my early twenties I continued to melt down at the drop of a pin after I moved out of my family’s house. A huge wave of uncertainty loomed over me and would come crashing down when I was stressed from school or exhausted from work until one day when something made me realize there was a better way. It was a slow start but I begun the decade long journey of seeing counselors off and on until I found one that I learned to trust and lean into. At the same time I read hundreds of books from the self help genre and often dipped into the “new age” pool of awakening your consciousness.
I had grown up under my father’s orders of, “do as I say, not as I do” and the consistent verbal belittling of any tasks, behavior, perceived accomplishment, or honor received. Nothing was ever good enough and I was either lazy, worthless, or pathetic. I quickly found my rock to crawl under. I was playing the parts of people pleaser and overachiever struggling to not be a victim or undeserving. I held onto the belief that my childhood built on emotional badgering was a huge motivational force in my life to do more, achieve more, and be more. Exactly what that would be always seemed to be a shifting goal post and still leaves me feeling as though I have commitment phobias as well as ADD. My past had taught me that nothing was ever enough and unless I choose to believe differently I am in for an incredibly disjointed life spent chasing my tail when I’m supposed to have it all figured out.
So choosing differently, is it that easy? Yes, sometimes. When a negative thought rides in and begins to take root, I remind myself that it’s not mine to own and I consciously choose to think about something positive or someone that makes me smile. If I’m lucky the negative thought simply dissipates. When I’m not, the thought crashes in, stirs up really old shit, and sends me into a downward spiral until I can get a grip and just ride it out remembering that nothing lasts forever. Someone once told me to stop taking everything personally, that it isn’t always about me. Someone I care about might be upset or having a rough day but it doesn’t always mean I had something to do with it. I just always assumed if someone was off it was because of me. I would feel their feelings, read their body language, and know their thoughts. I owned whatever they seemed to be going through as my own. Just recently I read that it’s not our job to make our children or parents happy. We love them, support them, and are there for them but ultimately we can never make them happy. It is a choice each of us have to make for ourselves. Happiness has to come from within, it’s not an external force that can be bought or obtained from an experience or person. The question I try to ask myself when I am feeling most uncertain or worried is, am I coming from a place of love or fear. The choice is ours and nobody else’s. Does it always come easy? No. Is it always black and white? No. Is it worth striving for? I believe yes, more than anything else that we can either do, be, or achieve.
I’m far from being able to fully let go of living in the past, regretting, blaming, and holding onto stuff that happened to me or that I did, but I know it’s my choice.  In this very moment and each moment after it’s my choice how I exist right now, no now, no right now. The past is never present, the only place I need to focus on is where I am in this very moment sharing with each of you. I’ll worry about the rest when I get there, or maybe not. Worry might just be left best in the past. So is it fear or love? Is it past or present, and is it always about me? Just some things I think about when I’m feeling stuck, uncertain and the past is nipping at my heels.

Kevin St Onge(Kevin)

I get it Jen!  More and more as of late, I am finding that I struggle with how often, and for how long, it is healthy for me to look over my shoulder.  It is by no means healthy for me to completely ignore my past and the experiences that have made me, me. But, giving the past too much of my attention seems to get in the way of me creating a happy and healthy present and future.

As I have already written about, my personal healing had to begin with an honest acknowledgment of my childhood trauma; that was healthy and necessary.  I then had to learn how that trauma was informing the manner in which I was interacting with the world. I think that through hard work and perseverance, I did all of this pretty well.

In recent years, my work has been an integration of sorts, an assimilation of my life’s experiences into the man I have grown into.  I have had to take all of that information and figure out what to do with it. For so long, my “job” was to connect with my emotions, to be unafraid of them, sit with them, embrace them, love them, and let them pass through.  In order to make, and maintain, this connection I really had to time travel back to specific emotionally charged experiences. Often I was a victim in these experiences; times when I had to endure physical and emotional assaults.  It was truly healing to visit those places in my history and to cry those tears. I learned to understand how my emotional reactions to new experiences might, at times, be inconsistent because they were being driven by a remembrance of old hurts.

But, at some point I had to make a choice, as you say.  I had to choose whether I would always be a victim to my past hurts, or whether I would become a survivor.  Intellectually, the choice is easy, of course I want to be a survivor! The choosing is not so easily accomplished on the emotional level.  You see, on my inside, I am torn and bruised, broken and bent, I have scars and festering wounds. I will never be as pure and as whole as the day I was born, none of us are I suppose.  But for me, there will always be something that stimulates one of these old hurts back into discomfort or pain. So, at some point, I just have to choose. I have to choose between the illusion of safety in retreating back into a victim self-image, or choose the strength in declaring that I am a survivor.

Through my growing and healing, I have come to incorporate new terms into my vernacular; terms like space, power, and vibrations.  They have helped me to frame things differently, to see the world, and myself, through a new lens. When I choose to see myself as a victim, I give away my power, constrict my space, and lower my vibrations.  All of which leaves me feeling sad, lonely, and powerless. When I choose to be a survivor, everything expands, my space increases making room for the loving and caring people I have around me, my power increases because I am so much stronger than I believe sometimes, and my vibrations are higher which attracts more and more positiveness to me.

A common interpretation of Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken” is that our lives will be fully actuated by choosing the less traveled road:  “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” With all due respect to Mr. Frost, I would like to offer a different interpretation.  You see, at the beginning of the poem, he is stuck in indecision at the crossroads of these two infamous roads: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and be one traveler, long I stood.” Perhaps, the power that he feels at the end of the poem came not from which road he chose, but from the empowering act of choosing itself.  While I am sure that each road offered different experiences, maybe the secret is not in getting it “right,” but in the power of our intention when we actively take control of our lives and make a choice for something rather than being paralyzed by fear and indecision, or ending up somewhere by default. Maybe in just the intentional act of choosing, Mr. Frost had already set into motion that which would “make all the difference”?

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