Some of the hardest things in life are perceivably some of the simplest. Saying goodbye—leaving unfinished business—letting go.
These are the kind of situations that feel beyond our control. There are no more physical actions to take, so instead we fall into the business of “mind over matter”. These situations raise the question of “can you accept the past and move forward?”
This happens to me a lot. While I value adventure, spontaneity and new beginnings, as a child change was not my forte. I was stubborn (or determined and persistent as I prefer to call it). I have a hard time letting go of the past, which in return binds me from properly moving forward. I always like to keep one foot dragging behind, holding open that figurative door—on the off chance I need to turn around. But the thing is, that is not healthy for me.
This habit of holding on too tightly can apply to almost anything.
Bad habits, negative thoughts, past loves and fruitless fights leaving only resentment and angered feelings. One of the deepest parts of me secretly loves to hold on to these negatives and keep them in an ornate little box, label it “memories” and open it up over and over again just for the hell of it.
I live for the pain. Enjoy the sensation of wallowing in it. Or so it seems. Why else would I continue to torture myself and delve back into these painful histories to relive them over and over again?
My therapist feels that I hold myself to too high of a standard. I expect only the best from myself. I know I am only a human, yet when I make a mistake I find it unacceptable. I take full blame even when I know the blame is not mine to take—and I internalize it. I chalk it up to the bigger picture of how I am a failure, a bad friend, a bad lover—a bad person.
So I punish myself. I think back on the good memories I had with someone, forget the bad, and curse myself for giving up on something that was supposedly so great (at least in my memories). But I know I am not alone in doing this. We as humans tend to shield ourselves from discomfort and only remember the good when we look back from a distance. From there, we are left with intense nostalgia remembering everything we once had.
I tend to describe my mindset as having an “all or nothing” way of thinking. This particular mental distortion is like fixating on one small, missing piece of the puzzle when in reality it does nothing to affect the overall picture. This is equally painful for me. This is where I begin to live inside my own head—more than a little lost in the past.
So I’m doing my best to move forward. To leave the past in the past and realize dwelling on the “shoulds”, “could haves” and “what ifs” will leave me more broken than anything.
Realizing that I don’t need to hold on so tight. Knowing that the universe has its plan for me—and those who are meant to stay, will.
Not every situation is going to wrap up smoothly, neatly tied with a colored ribbon. There will be many hurt feelings in your life, many embarrassments and many events beyond your control; but that does not mean you need to allow them to make a home inside your heart.
For me, I have found that the best medicine is to let go. Let those unwanted thoughts and anxiety roll off you and puddle onto the floor. They are not beneficial to your life. They do not fill your cup—and holding onto all that negativity does not make you a better person. In fact, it actually inhibits your growth as an individual—always has you one step back in the other room.
So let go. Breath it all out. Open up your heart.
It’s not going to be easy. I’m not even close to being able to accept my past mistakes and continue to love myself through it all. But that’s okay. The important thing is that you continue to work on bettering yourself. That you learn from what you still call blunders and move forward with the intention to do better, be better, for yourself and others.
Because in reality, that’s all you can do.
Pulling a segment from my all-time favorite poem The Type by Sarah Kay:
“Forgive yourself for the decisions you have made, the ones you still call
mistakes when you tuck them in at night. And know this:
Know you are the type of woman who is searching for a place to call yours.
Let the statues crumble.
You have always been the place.
You are a woman who can build it yourself.
You were born to build.”