Monday, March 20, 2006

Holding on and letting go

Forgetting what lies in the past, I press on... (Phil 3:13)

I'm not given to quoting the Bible. Seriously. But I come across these quotes that make me pause which, I've found, is always a good thing.

I am overly tied to my past, both the good and the bad. I don't brood or obsess but I get sentimentally attached to events and things and people and ruminate, trying to squeeze some meaning out of them, learn some lesson.

I remember a friend calling me crazy when I was in my 20s because I had a file of all of my job rejection that time, I was trying to change fields and applied for a lot of jobs I wasn't exactly qualified for, dream jobs, ones that I had absolutely no experience in.

"Why do you hang on to those things?", he said. "I'd rip them up". But I didn't, I held on to them, trying to read between the lines, to try to understand something about myself by what I had NOT succeeded at. They were also part of my history, albeit one that wasn't entirely pleasant, a marker of some period of my then short life.

I wanted to have them around to remember that I once strove to do something beyond the ordinary life that I was living at the time. Tried unsuccessfully, in this instance, but it is still wild to think about how different your life might be if things had gone in a different could have a completely different lifestyle, different friends, live in a different location, be in a different relationship.

What seemed relevant to me back then when I spoke with my friend was not that I didn't succeed but that I was able to imagine myself living another life, one different from the one I had. Whether better or worse wasn't the issue, it was the ability to imagine how different things could have been had the circumstances changed...I had been able to imagine that I could be out of the rut I was in at the time.

But holding on to the past can itself turn into a rut. You can get too attached to the past to the point where you live in the past, remembering past joys, old friends, and happy experiences instead of making new friends, creating new experiences. It is easier to live amidst your memories than work at creating new memories which takes effort at times, sometimes a great deal of effort.

When one is weighed down with baggage from the past (as I have been lately), forgetting the past and forging ahead might be the better course of action. Memories, God willing, will always be there but present opportunities may not. Maybe by letting go, putting the past behind us, one can be free of old notions of what "should be" or what IS possible and one can be able to take advantage of new avenues that present themselves.

Kind of sounds like something you'd read in a self-help book but at this point in my life, I'm open to any inspiration that comes my way, whether it is regurgitated wisdom or some fresh insights. Judge by the fruit, not the tree.