Shake Hands with the Past

In most contexts, it seems that our feelings with regard to the past motivate us to reflect on it with anger, sadness, regret, or frustration. Many of us look at the past as evidence of why we are the way that we are, and that can often lead to the stirring up of animosity, resentment, or shame. Not always, but enough worth mentioning.

One extremely tricky facet I’ve had to confront in learning to succeed despite the pitfalls anxiety offers me is shaking hands with the past. I may not like all of it, but that’s one thing the past doesn’t care about – love it or hate it, it’s going to remain unchanged forever and ever. It is only just recently that I’ve taught myself to change my mindset with regard to the past as this is the only thing within my power that I am able to alter. With retraining my mind has also come the process of mentally unpacking the box of emotions that led me to want to move so far away from my past in the first place.

*Before I continue, I want to make sure I draw a clear connection for anyone reading this between the process I just mentioned above and my journey through yoga. In an earlier post, I wrote that yoga is about a lot more than just the physical, if one can allow it to be. Thankfully, my mind, body, and soul have allowed it to be for me, which in turn has put me on the yellow brick road to getting better acquainted with all that I am. In the past, I’ve made a concerted effort to bring love and comfort to others around me because I believe in that practice wholeheartedly. I would much rather send affirming energy to others than negative energy. I don’t regret focusing on this in the past, but I do feel badly that in turning my energy toward helping others, I have neglected to shine a bit of it on myself. [Note: the “others” I refer to here are people outside of my immediate family.] The result of being so others-oriented is the continual overdraft of my emotional bank account. Please trust and believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to operate in the red when it comes to looking after your own emotions. If you’re lucky enough to have other emotional predators waging war on your psyche – things like anxiety, panic disorder, depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, to name a few – operating in the red means you will most certainly go mad.

I almost let myself go mad in 2016 just before my life reset.

side plank starfish
Back when yoga was just something I “did” instead of practiced. This photo was taken shortly after my life reset. Note the semicolon on my right arm. I was also freshly pregnant in this photo. 

Because yoga requires an energy of peace, acceptance, and gratitude over what is instead of frustration over what’s not, I have been able to turn back to my past more honestly, earnestly, and easily.

Without shame.

Without regret.

WITH peace.

It is so true that a person’s harshest critic is often themselves. In order to shake hands with my own past, I had to abandon the critical approach. Sure, I could sit around chopping the Antoinette of yesterday to pieces for all of her missteps, but that doesn’t serve me or her. Also, keep in mind that love it or hate it, the past simply is what it is. It cannot be changed or rewritten. So rather than pumping a lot of subjective, emotional energy into looking at it, I began looking at it contextually, as objectively as I could, and as being part of a larger whole.

I forgave myself for the things I wanted to redo, and thanked myself for learning the lessons I did in the wake of those events.

And then I put the past back where it belongs – behind me.

That’s where your past belongs, too.

If you are reading this and have something in your past eating at you, or if reflecting on who you were brings you shame, or if you’re somehow wrapped in the perception that because you failed once, you are now always doomed to fail, please know that none of that is true. Tell yourself that fact. Out loud. Write it down if you have to. The past does not dictate who we are. It shapes us, sure, but every morning that we open our eyes and rise out of bed WE get to decide what we will be, not our pasts. All the past does is sit there. WE make up all of the other stuff.

Once you’re able to digest these truths, and you’re ready to do the work, I encourage you to shake hands with your past, too. It will look different on you than it did on me, but that’s the best part – it is your gift to yourself. In the same way you spend time and money on selecting something perfect to give to someone you love, be sure that what you give yourself is exactly what you want, what you need, and what you will love.

Peace be with you.


2 thoughts on “Shake Hands with the Past

  1. Before I even read Shake Hands with the Past, I wrote A Quicksand Life. It is a true story about my brother shooting and killing a boy in my bedroom when I was 15. I am 59 and just now could write about it. Thank you for your writing. It helped me.


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