Yesterday I was cleaning my house and listening to the Cranberries. It’s funny how music can transport you back to who you were and the situation you were in when you hear it again. I immediately felt really really sad, it was quite a bizarre experience really. It was like I was suddenly watching 19 year old me in my tiny university room, adorned with posters of Gazza, Ginola and Nirvana (I know a strange mix, I was always a bit odd), sitting at my desk, cigarette in hand, singing along to Dolores’s haunting lyrics and vocals. I was quite taken aback by how clearly I saw myself. I saw myself crying, being unhappy and totally lost.
In the past, I would have been angry at the situation, angry at the people who didn’t help when they could have and angry at me for making such a bloody mess of everything. Yesterday I had a bit of an epiphany I didn’t feel any of those things, I felt sad, really sad for me for the girl I saw and in all honesty, I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her it will be okay.
This made me think about the past and what we gain by living in it. I know if I’d had that experience even a year ago, I would have had a very different reaction to it. I certainly would not have felt the peace I felt yesterday and this gave me great hope for my future, a future where I don’t focus on the past.
I know some people and honestly, an event from their past has practically become part of their personality. In the northeast, we have a terrible habit of having nicknames for people that describe something about them. For example, I know (and I don’t condone these nicknames at all and all are adults and answer to them!) a Billy big ears, a girl called big fatty, the hotdog man, slim etc. I sometimes feel like if you are not careful a past event becomes so ingrained in you that it could be your descriptive nickname. Laura, the cheated on, Louise, lost her mother when she was young, Kim the dumped friend etc
Being a victim of your past is real and I am sure that you have heard this before, but the person(s) who wronged you have most likely moved on and you are just a blip in their memory that occasionally pops up but is batted away again. If you stay angry and in that moment, then it is you who is still being harmed, again and again. I am not saying that moving on is easy and I am certainly not suggesting that you forgive people who have harmed you in the past. Just learn to put yourself first and look after yourself, don’t become your tragedy. No one wants to be the next Miss Havisham, do they?
I was angry, really angry with my Dad for years. I would think about certain events, where I felt he could and should have been more supportive to me, to make me feel loved, to understand that I had lost my Mum at a young age and to act like he cared. I would get so angry and upset by my perceived wrongs that it would keep me awake at night. I had to stop myself thinking about it as I couldn’t cope with the anger I felt. I would struggle to be near him and would become mute around him, terrified that I would blurt out how I actually felt. This really was not helpful to me and held me back mentally, at times I felt like a child in his presence.
Then my child moved near to him for work. The family member who I was close to and had encouraged my son to move there let us down badly and left my child to fend for himself. My Dad stepped up massively, built a good bond with my child and really looked out for him. I don’t know if this was because he felt that he needed to make up for the past and I actually don’t care, because this created such a shift in my mind that my anger vastly dissipated. I realised that all of this rage and anger was hurting me. I had warned my child not to expect any help from my Dad when he went up there, because of my anger and my experience and I was totally wrong.
I am not saying that my Dad doesn’t annoy me anymore, as I am sure I annoy him, but it just doesn’t cut as deep now and I am sure that it’s because I let go of my resentment. It’s also allowed me to step back and look at other family relationships, in a much calmer and rational way.
One thing we need to remember is that our recollection of our past is only our recollection, we can remember a situation one way, but this will probably be remembered even by someone who has experienced it with you, totally differently. We all see things in very different ways, so you may have spent years feeling wronged by someone and they may feel the same way about you, they may feel that you were actually the perpetrator, we can’t dictate how someone else felt in that moment or situation. Therefore, we can’t dictate how they go on to deal with it. They aren’t obliged to make us feel better.
If you give yourself permission to move on, then you also give yourself the gift of freedom. For a long time, I felt that if I gave up on my grief for my Mum then I would be letting her down, that I would somehow be forgetting her. When I actually did move on from the constant, what-ifs and if only’s, I gained something huge, I began remembering the good things about her life. I spoke about her in a positive way to my children, I joked about her with them and actually, she was with me more then, than she ever was when I was living in the past and missing her. I had the freedom to be okay. It gives me the freedom to use the negative headspace in my brain for positive thoughts instead. I am not saying that we shouldn’t grieve, of course, we should, and everyone grieves differently, what I am saying is that we also have permission to move on without forgetting.
The other issue with living in the past is that you are giving up on your future. If you are constantly harking back to a different time or constantly thinking about an old situation, you aren’t present now. How can you possibly appreciate what you have now if it doesn’t feel the same or good enough compared to what you had? And what a disservice that is to those around you now. Why not try and incorporate some of what you are missing? if you can, bring back traditions from your childhood, talk about the past, no-one said that you can’t miss the past, it’s natural, but try not to pine for it.
Try and be kind to you from the past too, if you are still beating yourself up for what you did or didn’t do with your children or family because you were drinking too much, think about how you can rectify it now? It’s easier to cope with brand new good memories from your actions than constantly re-hashing old actions that you regret.
I am not an angel and I am certainly not some zen warrior. I am a feisty bad-tempered sod at times, but since I have stopped drinking, I am definitely more at peace with myself. I forgive myself for things I have done or not done because of alcohol. I also have realised that some people who were given a pass because of my low self-esteem or fear because of actions around alcohol should not have been given that pass. I won’t be dwelling on them, but I won’t be forgiving them either. You don’t have to, you just have to deal with their actions in a way that doesn’t carry on hurting you.
I hope that this has helped someone, these are just my thoughts, I am not saying that this should be how everyone deals with their life, it’s just how I am trying to deal with mine.