Barbara Emrys

The Past Isn’t Calling

January begins a fresh year with a new number. As soon as the midnight countdown is over on New Year’s Eve, we’ll all start looking ahead. We’ll turn our eyes toward unexplored opportunities– making resolutions and setting a few happy expectations for the new year. Again.

Because, yeah, we’ve done this before, but it’s fun to start again. Looking ahead is energizing. Making plans, no matter how dreamy, is almost as exciting as taking the action. New days make us all feel newer. Beginnings are wonderful. Beginnings are amazing. Having said that, I’d like to take a minute to talk about endings.

It’s important to recognize that things come to a close. For something to begin, something else must end. Living now, today, means we say a proper goodbye to yesterday, and that means more than making a wish or a resolution. It means taking conscious action. We have to be willing to leave things behind– ideas, associations, outdated beliefs. All kinds of things have to go, and ‘cleaning house’ takes practice.

If you’re having trouble throwing out old clothes to make room in your closet, how can you throw out pointless opinions? How can you discard a pattern of behavior or a persistent memory? How can you say no to fear, and let life in? Saying goodbye may mean leaving some of yourself behind; it may mean stepping back from your own reality. It definitely means learning to detach.

Nobody much likes that word; maybe because it’s not fully understood. Detachment sounds painful, but it actually opens your heart to infinite possibilities. Like broken toys and old newspapers, unnecessary things just keep accumulating…and they’ll continue to pile up if you don’t make a conscious effort be free of them. If you find yourself tripping over redundant stuff all the time, it’s not the stuff that’s at fault– it’s you. So, say thank you, and kiss it all goodbye.

Think about it: the past asks nothing of you. It doesn’t demand your hope or optimism. It doesn’t ask for a promise or a plan. 2019 isn’t insisting you go on a diet or take more trips to the gym. 2012 isn’t whining for more attention. Your childhood sorrows aren’t asking for a play date. Former years aren’t jealous of upcoming ones. The past isn’t needy or vindictive. The past is finished with you. Can you truthfully say you’re finished with the past?

Are you willing to put away your regrets and live in this moment, making the most of this day? Are you willing to throw out the clutter and take a deep breath of life as it exists right now? Face it, as exceptional and mystifying as it may be, your mind is also an expanding storage unit. And mental clutter, like any other kind, doesn’t improve the quality of your days. Saying goodby to stale ideas allows fresh ones to be born. Putting an end to your stubborn ways gives you a chance to be objective…and to gain some wisdom.

It’s a mature choice to not to attach yourself to past events or future expectations. It’s not that old acquaintances should be forgot, or that the past should never be brought to mind…but we famously dwell on the past. We carry it around like a dead weight (a corpse, as Don Miguel puts it) and then we claim it’s victimizing us. We care too much about things we can’t change, which means we don’t finish things well. So, back to my original point: we can do endings better than we do.

Last year ended. However it may have played out, however kind or cruel it seemed to you, last year brought you here. It brought you safely to January of 2020. This is exactly where you want to be. Every attachment, every experience so far, has prepared you to be better in this moment. More years will pass. Welcome them with good cheer, but remember to celebrate the years that got you to this place. Show a little gratitude for tragic endings, as well as the happy ones. Say a word of thanks for precious regret and blessed remorse. Appreciate your guilt and shame, and then say goodbye to all of it. Like broken toys, they have no power to amuse you in the future.

The past made you, but it’s not calling you anymore. I assure you, last year doesn’t care. So, go on, cut yourself free from the gravitational pull of memory. Get out from under the weight of expectations. Be the master you came here to be. January seems like a good time to start, right? Refresh the program, so you can be here, now…one-hundred percent.

Happy New Year!
from Barbara Emrys

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