Each of us has things that have happened in our past that were unpleasant. Some of us have things in our past that are unfathomable. And most of us have plenty of things in between. I, myself, have had my own share of difficulties and things that have happened to me. And for a very long time, they defined who I was, how I lived, and what I did. But they don’t anymore.
These days, I am defined by who I am, what I do, what I believe, and what my goals are.
So, how did I get from where I was to where I am? How did I get from the negativity, the anger, and the powerlessness of my past to the happiness, beauty and love in my present? It wasn’t an easy journey, but it was a simple journey.
It used to be, once upon a time, that I could sit down for hours with a close friend and a cup of coffee and I could rail, or cry, or fight out what all of the things that had happened to me. And contrary to what some people believe – things do happen to us. People we love die. People steal things that are precious to us. People hurt us, physically and emotionally. Yes, to a large degree, we can be in charge of the people we surround ourselves with, but learning who is safe and who is not involves getting hurt.
For many years, I carried around the anger, hurt and resentment for all of the things that had happened to me. And then, one day, I met this amazing man. And I knew that if I wanted him to be in my life, I had to stop holding on to all of that past crap, or there wouldn’t be room for the goodness of him.
Now, I want to point out that the man was the catalyst for me, but that doesn’t mean that he would have been the only worthwhile catalyst. I’m sure I missed plenty of opportunities along the way. I’m sure there would have been more opportunities later. Happiness is not love induced. But, the fact of the matter is, it was realizing that I didn’t have room in my soul to love enough because of all of the anger and resentment that I was hauling around. And I decided to change that.
The process of letting go isn’t easy, per se. I didn’t just decide that I was no longer mad. It took years to get from angry to happy. But it was years of gradually becoming less angry and more happy.
This is how I did it.
1. I stopped using my time to constantly think about the things I was mad about.
2. I took a real, hard look at my past and decided what I could do anything productive about. Then I decided whether I wanted to do anything about those things or not. For the most part, I realized that it wasn’t worth it to me to pursue the things in my past. And if they weren’t worth pursuing, then why was I letting them run my life?
3. I started thinking about what I actually WANTED in life. This was HUGE for me. It had been years since I had dared to dream about what I wanted, because I was so stuck on what had happened before. I was afraid to dream, and I had to get past that. Without dreams, there is no way to achieve what our hearts truly desire.
4. I started working, in very small increments, toward what I wanted to achieve and the kind of person I wanted to become.
5. I started focusing on the things that were good in my present, instead of the things that were wrong with my past.
6. Finally, I began spending most of my time being happy with what I have, and focusing on what I am doing to make my world a better place. I very rarely focus on the harder parts of my past anymore. I sometimes look back on something with sadness, but no longer with anger. Sometimes I wish, for instance, that my father were still here, to enjoy his grandchildren, to meet my husband, and to see who I grew up to be. I am sad that he didn’t get to do those things. But I don’t dwell on it, because I can’t change it. And I almost never go back to the place in my past where I was angry about his death.
Working through this process has really allowed me to take possession of my own life. As long as I was angry about the things that had happened to me, I wasn’t in possession of my own life – the people who had hurt me and moved on were.
I’m not saying that this process is an easy one, or that it will work for everyone. I am saying that it worked for me, and helped me to let go of the anger that was ruling my life for a long time.
How have you let go of your past and moved on to your future? What tips can you share with us?