Are you concerned about how you look in your bathing suit? Do you worry you don’t look as good as you did last year, or ten or twenty years ago? Are you struggling with friendships or business ventures that once worked for you, but do not offer the reward they once did?
If so, George Bernard Shaw might show you the door to peace: “The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”
To plumb to the core of happiness and success, we must recognize the difference between the present and the past: The present exists. The past doesn’t. If you have ever tried to go back and relive or rekindle the past, you have probably discovered that you can’t. What was, was. What is, is. If something is now, it is because it has life now. If it isn’t now, it doesn’t exist.
Since the advent of the Internet and Facebook, I have received many contacts from people I once knew. My best buddies from elementary school, high school and college have reached out to say hello. I have enjoyed hearing from them, and in most cases we corresponded by email for a bit, and even got together for lunch. Yet in nearly all cases, those connections did not last very long. When this occurred, part of me felt disappointed, since these friends represented some of the best times of my life and I hoped they would renew. Instead, I found that we no longer had as much in common as we did years ago. While our new times together were pleasurable and rewarding, after reminiscing over old times, we simply did not have that much to say to each other now.
Every relationship exists for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.Â You intersect paths with some people for a momentary experience, and that is the purpose of the meeting. You were not meant to be together for a longer time. Ken fell in love with Cindy, and several months later she got pregnant. The couple married and had a beautiful little boy who became the light of their lives. A few years later Ken and Cindy divorced and chose different paths. Yet they both love their son very much, and to this day over 20 years later, he is the best thing that ever happened to them. Ken and Cindy came together to have that child, but they did not have a purpose as life partners.
Some relationships exist for a season. You might have a friend, business colleague or romantic partner for a number of years. Then you grow apart and the relationship changes form or dissolves. You may believe you made a mistake or something went wrong. But it did not. If the relationship lasted for seven years, that was the true lifespan of the relationship. If you tried to stop it before its appointed time, or you try to prolong it after it is complete, your efforts would not work. Its appointed time is perfect.
Some relationships last a lifetime. These might include family relationships, marriage partners, significant friendships or career colleagues. Such relationships are a blessing, for they run deep and the loyalty and support you share is a true gift. Appreciate such relationships with all your heart. Such people are genuine soul partners.
In truth, all relationships last forever. The nature of relationship is eternal. It’s just the earthly form that goes through changes. If there was once love, there is always love. The part of us that gets hurt, upset, or angry, or turns its back on another person is not our true self. Our reality is love. Likewise, if someone leaves this world, that is not the end of the relationship. As spiritual beings, your relationship goes on and continues to blossom. Only love lasts.
There are several ways we hold onto the past in self-defeating ways. One is by clinging to past hurts or resentments. “We bury the hatchet but then we remember where we buried it.” Someone hurt you a long time ago, and that is all you remember about this person or relationship. Or you hurt someone and you cannot forgive yourself. Since then the other person has remarried, or passed away, or has left your life. You prolong the pain by focusing on the past hurt.
Another way we keep the past alive is through a sense of indebtedness. Someone helped you with a loan, job, or act of kindness, or they got you out of a jam. Since then you hold them on a pedestal as a kind of savior and you feel forever indebted to them. Or you helped someone and you believe they are indebted to you. Plato said, “True friendship can occur only among equals.” A Course in Miracles tells us, “Miracles are performed by those who temporarily have more for those who temporarily have less.” It is holy to ask for help, and holy to give it. But that interaction lives in that moment, and afterward we must release it as giver or receiver.
We also keep ourselves small by holding onto an identity related to a past success. You achieved something admirable long ago, but you milk it forever. There are new and equally wonderful things about you now. Can you stand in today’s magnificence as well as yesteryear’s?
You don’t need to resurrect the past because the power that made the past beautiful is making now wonderful. That’s why they call it the present.