The past holds many treasures that can serve us well as seek to discover what we are supposed to be doing now that we’re almost old. Not only does it contain the wisdom born of hardship and pain, but it also holds the key to the joy and meaning that has enriched our lives. When we mine these multifaceted jewels, they will lead us on a path of self-discovery that promises to provide us with an instructive map to age abundantly.
I don’t know about you, but I have spent most of my life running from my past mistakes and running toward the future where I believed a better path could be charted. It was an effective method in that it kept me moving, trying new things, and gathering experience, because boy, did I make a lot of mistakes! When I recognized a wrong turn, I chalked it up to experience, buried it as best I could and vowed never to do it again, and kept moving.
Now, however, looking toward the future has lost its appeal as the end of life becomes more palpable. But there is more to the past than the debris of failure and now is the perfect time to mine it for all the gems it can provide our todays. Setting aside the running to and running from way of living, allows us the opportunity to take a deep breath and begin our search for the joy and richness that only living can bring.
Our past holds treasures personally crafted just for us. They are personal, rich and substantial. They hold the key to hope, gratitude and as yet undiscovered benefits. As we sift through our memory banks in search of these golden nuggets we will find our own personal map to meaning and purpose.
Begin by picking a period of time — a decade, a year or a day — during which you felt particularly in tune with yourself and life. Close your eyes and sink into the memory. Feel it, absorb it, and allow it to fill your mind and senses with all the good things it has to offer. Then ask yourself what was it about that moment that was so special? What were you feeling, doing, experiencing? Can you repeat it in some way today? Can you use it to live happier today?
I spent so many years looking at the negatives of the past and not enough time holding on to its treasures. Today when I closed my eyes and did this little exercise I thought of a time when I was in college. It was summer. Two of my best friends from high school (twin guys*) and my roommate joined up for a series of adventures. We went to watch the Thunderbirds fly over the Long Island Sound, took in a number of rock concerts and had a blast. We just enjoyed each other and had fun ~ no strings attached kind of fun. We laughed. We lived. We soaked up the excitement of the moment.
What I felt during those days was the excitement of doing something new, the warmth of being with people I enjoyed, a sense of freedom, and time in the great outdoors. I had no expectations of myself or my companions other than to enjoy the moment, taking it in, absorbing life and love.
By living for a few moments in that recollection I am able to absorb its teachings for my life today. The experience helped me to realize four things. First, I have forgotten how to live in the moment and to absorb all the pleasure and knowledge it has to offer. Second, it revealed to me that I place entirely too many unnecessary expectations on myself. Third, I haven’t done anything new and exciting in a very long time and lastly, I realize I don’t spend near enough time laughing with people I enjoy. Just that brief moment of reflection provided me with all the information I need today to make my life more comfortable. Here’s what I can do now:
- Learn something new.
- Focus on doing those things I enjoy doing and aside the uncomfortable and unnecessary expectations I have placed on myself.
- Call a friend and get together for coffee or a phone conversation.
- Share laughter with someone I love.
Your past will undoubtedly reveal something different, something that is uniquely yours, a personal message from your heart. As we begin to use our past as a teacher, rather than a litany of what not to do, we will allow it to blow the breath of life into our todays. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
* I married the other twin ten years later.