We cannot keep holding onto the past and still move forward. The past is long gone and some of us get stuck there. We find excuses of why things happened the way they did, only to blame other people for our unhappiness. How many of us know people who cannot get out of the rut they are in because they have wallowed for years, waiting for someone else to make them happy? Guess what? Your happiness is not my responsibility. It is yours. Jut as my happiness is not yours. I own my happiness. If we continue to live in a world that no longer exists, then we are living not in the present. We are always quick to want to hold onto the good things and want the bad things to slip away fast. I get that. The memories we treasure are the ones we want to keep reliving over and over while the hurtful ones we desperately try to forget.
As our youngest son is well into his senior year of high school and heading off to college next fall, I understand that our lives (as the parents of three sons), will also change. Mostly speaking, all three will begin their new lives, finding our who they are, and experiencing life to the fullest, with the good and the bad. Many parents of students who will be be going through the same anxiety, happiness, sadness and every gambit of emotion in before this year is done will have to come to grips with the changes that will come soon enough. We no longer will be able to hold our babies in our arms or tuck them in at night. Our roles will become more advisory in nature as we allow them the freedom to make their own choices and reap the benefit of the good ones and suffer the consequences of the bad ones. It is a struggle that every parent goes through…when they have to let go. Having another son just beginning to find out who he is as he learns to adapt to college life as a freshman, it is always refreshing to see how “living on his own” will change him. He has learned how to adapt to things he wants to be different by making adjustments on his own, without seeking parental advice. (This comes as no surprise to his dad or me.) Seeing my shy, quiet young son become more open and friendly with people calling his name has long been something I have always wished for him and I have no doubt that he will do great things. Our oldest is busy making plans to further his education by taking the steps he needs to better his career and although he still lives at home (for now…), it is fun to watch him take the initiative to push himself and plan for his own future.
So, why tell you this about our sons? Because none of them are looking backwards. They are not wishing they were still in elementary school. They are excited for their future. They have let go of who they are, who no longer is a part of their lives, and keep moving ahead. There are lessons in watching young ones grow up. Sometimes, I think we, as adults, forget that.
Sometimes, we do not realize what we have in our lives until it is too late. We have become complacent and forget the meaning of all we hold dear. We take it for granted and pretend it doesn’t matter. And only once it is gone, do we fully get the message…do we fully understand why it was so important in the first place….why we miss it so much now.
Change is everywhere we go. Maybe we never notice the new building being erected just down the street until it is completely done. Maybe we forget how going to lunch with co-workers strengthens friendships that are created outside of work. Maybe we realize someone’s absence when they are no longer part of our daily lives, wondering if they notice it too. With life, there is but one guarantee…it will never be the same again.
Letting go is the acceptance of that guarantee. Change is inevitable. We change who we are, where our journey takes us, and how we want to live our lives. Many of us have drifted apart and closer to others who have a smaller or bigger influence in our lives, based on what is going on. That is meant to happen.
Ever known anyone who wanted something different and could not accept the way things really are? Maybe it is due to a lack of understanding. Or perhaps it is just the want to want more. Changes in relationships are probably the most difficult to accept in our lives. People wishing to have a better connection with people they love doesn’t make it happen. Both parties involved must be in the same place, wanting the same thing in order for the relationship to move ahead. But I know people who have held onto past guilt, continue to live with regrets, and never ever let go. They are in a perpetual plane of non-existence as they constantly struggle with their own demons and self-worth, somehow believing that someone else’s growth does not mean a rejection of them. If someone truly loves you, then their selfishness cannot stand in the way of you becoming who you are meant to be. Their lack of unconditional love and needing to hold onto what they no longer have is what makes them miserable.
“If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” ~Richard Bach
In some ways, change is an ending to one thing and yet a beginning to another. Maybe we can relate it through the five stages of grieving, when we suffer the loss of a loved one. We all go through our own grief, in our ways, in our own time. It affects us all differently, just like with change. Some of us rebound rather quickly, and others endure horrible pain that is reflected in our eating habits, our outlook on life, and it consumes our entire being. Can we all relate to loss and change? I bet we can. In some way, shape or form, we have all endured hurt and pain. Whether it was related to something out of our control or not, we learn to appreciate the value of the things and people we are most grateful for in our lives
According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book, titled, “On Death and Dying” (1969), she describes the five stages of dealing with death as the following:
A – Anger
B – Bargaining
D – Depression
A – Acceptance
I am not the same person I was five years ago and will not be the same person five years from now. I may not even be the same person five hours from now. That is one of the reasons I named this “Constant Change” — we are always evolving and developing. There is no way around this, yet some of us fight it more than we should. We all have things we wish we could still keep the way they were. Some days, I want my boys to be little again — reminiscing about our trips to the zoo, picking out a Halloween costume, or even the days that they needed me to stay home with them because they were sick. Life is much too short to hold onto the past, trying and hoping to mold our present into what it once was. We get nowhere that way. We ache for something that cannot be.
So we are forced with a choice to be made. Either we stay stuck in the past or we let the past go. The past has no power over us if we don’t let it and that is why most people never get past the “depression” stage. They never learn to accept. We are meant to grow, being forced by life experiences through the actions we do and do not take, through the people who come into and out of our lives, and by the places we travel along on our journeys. Letting go of where we were allows us to move ahead and it is imperative to living life in the present day.
We all change. We are forced to change because life will change with or without our acceptance of those changes. So we have a choice to make. Have you been holding onto something that has outworn itself? Isn’t about time to let go? Aren’t you tired of living in the past? No one should live there…you just can’t. Moving forward means leaving something else behind, but it never means forgetting.
Michelle A. Homme 2014 ©