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Thursday, August 4, 2011

When memories keep us stuck in the past, we can't enjoy the present

 “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. “ – Henry David Thoreau
When I am driving in my car and I look in my rear view mirror, I often think of Lot's wife. I know that may seem odd, but I have a great deal in common with "Mrs. Lot". (Whose name, for extra points, was Ado or Edith). 
I am not a particularly biblical person, despite my many years of Catholic school training, but I have always been fascinated with the story. Poor Edith was turned to a pillar of salt because she looked back. I understand she did so after being warned not to, but it is so easy to become hypnotized by what is behind us and so difficult to move forward. I know I have an unfortunate tendency to ruminate on sad memories or past misfortunes. It isn't that I enjoy torturing myself or being unhappy, far from it. I am an extremely upbeat and positive person... most of the time. But the siren's song of thinking of the past, and replaying those terrible memories like old newsreels can become a near compulsion at times.
I am an extremely analytical person. This is a blessing and a curse. Blessing because I can sort through problems and situations and come up with thorough and productive answers to questions, problems, and situations. I enjoy the challenge of working through the task, doing my research and knocking it out. The problem is that in my private life, I do this to a fault. I
verb (used with object), -lyzed, -lyz·ing.
to separate (a material or abstract entity) into constituent parts or elements; determine the elements or essential features of ( opposed to synthesize): to analyze an argument.
to examine critically, so as to bring out the essential elements or give the essence of: to analyze a poem.
to examine carefully and in detail so as to identify causes, key factors, possible results, etc.
to subject to mathematical, chemical, grammatical, etc., analysis.
to psychoanalyze: a patient who has been analyzed by two therapists.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Or does it? Perhaps for intellectual pursuits or a job, but too much analysis in one's personal life is a path to pain and depression.
Living happily and serenely in the present moment is a discipline I aspire to every day. I cherish the memories I have made through the years, but looking back too much, as Edith- Lot's wife, discovered is perilous and may become one's undoing. I would rather not be turned to a pillar of salt, and I would rather not focus on all my yesterdays because there is no changing them. I can stare in that rear view mirror of my life for the rest of my days, analyze it all till I breathe my last breath, and what will it do? Nothing.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come. Living in the present moment and focusing on what we have and are and do- right now. Putting the past behind is not dishonoring the lessons, wisdom or experience it has brought with it. Simply allowing one's focus to remain in the "here and now" and to gently push away the yearning to analyze or attempt to make sense of things that are long gone.
Giving memories too much significance, especially losses, mistakes or things that were out of our control, is discouraging, destructive and pointless. None of it can be altered or restored. I must leave it where it is- in my history, in my memories, in the past. I am a work in progress and this is one of my greatest struggles... letting go. It is scary to let go, but it is scarier to clutch on to things, people, and even memories that prevent us from moving to tomorrow.


  1. ... Not to mention, if you drove around while only looking into your rear-view-mirror, you wouldn't see where you were going and you'd be more likely to get hurt and have more bad things to regret... vicious cycle.

    I really enjoyed this article; it is well-written and covers the subject matter thoroughly enough, yet reader-friendly...

  2. Well, we have a lot more in common than I imagined when we first crossed paths on that FB page. ;)

    I'm not at all religious. But letting go and living in the moment is something I too struggle to do every day. And I'm analytical to a fault!

    Great post!


  3. Diana, this is a wonderful post and just what I needed to read. today is a new day - exactly one year from my past - and I'm rejoicing that it is the past. I've worked through the loss and pain and am joyous to have come through the other side. I also believe the calendar - time - is a great healer. thank you for speaking my mind.

  4. Thank you all for the great feedback and comments. I am very happy to know that my writing has touched on some common feelings and thoughts. I am thankful to know that I was able to convey some of the experiences in my own life that have given me a great deal to think about.
    If anyone wants to private message me, I can always be reached at