The Holiday Season is often a time to reflect and reminisce on our past. Much of that experience can be joyful and fun as we sit with family and friends telling stories of days gone by.
However, sometimes the walk down memory lane turns into a dark, treacherous path and we find ourselves lost in the regrets and sorrows of our past. It is indeed helpful to visit our history; there is much there to be learned and understood that can give us valuable information about who we are today. Yet during the holidays one should be mindful that some of those back roads can mire us in sadness and grief and make it difficult to truly partake in the joyful spirit that is all around us.
Consider Lucy’s Story. Lucy has been through a horrible divorce. One year later, her ex-husband is still being a rat. Her adult children have pulled away. On top of that she has dealt with depression and relocation. It has been a terribly difficult year. Recently, she mentioned that she is happy with her life. How does she manage to be so upbeat and positive?
“Well,” she explained, “I imagine that I know no other life then the one I have now. I have a good job, which I love. I have strong family connections and deep, solid friendships. I am my own person and no longer ruled by someone else’s whims and edicts. If I focus on what I DO have, I have a wonderful life that brings me peace and fulfillment.”
Lucy is able to focus on the gifts of the present. So often, after a loss, people tend to evaluate their lives in comparison to what they used to have, or what they thought they had. When we stay fixated on the past, we do ourselves a huge disservice; we risk creating a fantasy without any of the hard edges of reality. Idealizing our loss only makes it harder to deal with. This continuing rumination on what was, leaves no room to appreciate what is. By focusing on what she has now, Lucy is able to enjoy her life. She has optimism and gratitude.
Ask yourself this: If just for a short time, the memory of your “past” were suddenly and magically wiped out of your consciousness and your current life was the only life you knew, would it be so bad? You may find that your present life is fulfilling and enjoyable.
Or, if this is not the life you want, rather than continue to replay the past, explore what you can do to create the life you desire. What actions can you take to move you closer to fulfilling your dreams?
During this season of giving thanks shift your focus from the past hurts and disappointments to the life you are living now. We can find gratitude in what we have when we do not hold it up to the impossible standard of revisionist history.
Honor your past, look forward to your future, but live in the present.