We often find ourselves tempted by certain things in our life, but some things more than others.
One of the things I’m referring to is about going back in time and changing certain events in our lives. Becoming a breast cancer patient made me start thinking about this. First is was about trying to stop the cancer from happening. Then other events followed.
The reasons for wanting to turn back time at first seem to make sense. If you made a decision and took action to doing something in the past that didn’t quite go the way you wanted and just the thought of being able to change that would somehow help the future you might have missed out on.
The other part of this involves those decisions you made and actions you took in the past which may have you regretting what you did or didn’t do.
What this ends up leading to is carrying around emotional baggage and let’s face it, no one wants to be carrying around and bunch of excess baggage and having it run their life.
Imagine that you could go back 20 years (or less if you’re younger than 35, more if you already have grandchildren). What would you do?
Think of the pain and challenges that defined that period for you—heartache, loss, failure, shattered dreams, mistakes, regrets, doubts, fears.
Would you change anything?
When I asked myself this question, my first impulse was: I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything unfolded the way it was meant to be. I am today where I am because of the past.
Then I stopped, and more thoughts cross my mind:
I really want to be able to say that I have nothing I would change about my past if I could but…that just wouldn’t be an honest statement. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t change anything. There are major things that I would change … if I could.
Before I get into it, let me just say that I truly believe there are events that have been encoded into our DNA (fated at the hands of God, life, karma, or evolution) and these are unchangeable—no matter how hard we try.
I can’t force a company to keep me employed, or a relationship to last beyond its intended purpose. Nor can I prevent war, serious illness, or prejudice.
But I can most definitely choose not to be defined by these events. I have a choice, and yes, I would’ve done a few things differently. This is where events are only probabilities (i.e. may or may not happen). And maybe I could’ve altered my reality in a way that was more beneficial to me.
So here is what I’d change.
If I could, I would have told my Dad that I loved him more often than I did. I know he knew I loved him…but you just can’t say those words often enough.
I would have told the one guy in high school that I wanted to date him. I would not be afraid to make the first move. And even if it didn’t work, at least I would have tried.
I would tell my Mother, when she defended my ex husband (he promised her he had changed), that if she can’t stand behind her daughter’s decision to leave her husband because of abuse, then I would have to there also. That my sanity and being able to raise my daughters in a peaceful home is my priority. I would not let her make me feel less than what I am.
I would have told my current husband that liked the job I had. That I did not want the stress of working for the woman with a huge chip on her shoulder just because it was more money. I would tell him liking my job is more important than more money.
Fast food and processed food would be gone from my diet. Maybe then breast cancer would not have invaded my body.
I would not fight the inevitable, or hang on to what was. I wasted so much time trying to save the un-savable. My first marriage is a perfect example.
I would walk away from toxic people. I chose to ignore the signs and suffer for no reason, other than fear. Living in fear is not living. My ex husband is a perfect example. I should have walked away years before I did.
I would not try to be a hero and meddle in someone else’s business. It’s not my job to help people who didn’t want to help themselves. I ended up enabling the same selfish and destructive behaviors. Sad to say…but my ex fills this also. He needed mental help, and I tried to help him (he’s bipolar) get the help he needed. But he didn’t think he needed any help. I was the problem not him.
Feel the pain and not numb it. I fought with myself so much. I did whatever I could to numb the pain with more regrettable actions. And, paradoxically, I compounded the suffering. I’d allow myself to grieve and be with the pain. Abuse will make you numb to your own feelings, I should have walked away from my first marriage.
Channel despair and fear into something useful. Instead of sinking deeper and deeper into despair, I’d choose one thing that I wanted to do, and work on it.
I would’ve done all of these things and more.
Would my life have turned out differently?
Probably not in some ways. Definitely yes in other ways. But I wouldn’t have suffered as much. I do regret some of the choices I made, but I mostly regret how I felt about everything–anxiety, stress, fear, and a whole lot of apathy.
Back to the present. Hindsight is 20/20, and the past is in the past. Going back in time may feel like an exercise in futility. But it’s not. The emotional pain of the past lives with us until we face it, and deal with it.
Look at the events of your past. Imagine a movie playing with the younger you as the star, and you’re the director of the movie. What would you tell your lead actor?
Here is what I’d tell my younger self.
I’d tell my past self, kindly and gently, to:
Trust more and have faith. There is nothing you could’ve done to not fail in some aspects of your life. Trust that life has and will always be on your side. Instead of wallowing in self-loathing and doubt, have faith in your abilities and worth. No one is more, or less, deserving than anyone else. And when you leave “Richie” go somewhere he won’t find you. Don’t look back! Love, and kindness are out there. He will never be the man he promises you to be.
Embrace your inner badass. Don’t put up with situations thinking that you’re weak. You’re more powerful than any situation—even at times when you feel broken, damaged, or undeserving. Nip the abuse in the bud. You have enough strength to take care of yourself.
Don’t take things way too personally. Every little (or major) thing is not about you. God is not on a mission to smite you. Failure happens; loss is inevitable. Step out of the selfish bubble of misery, and refocus on what you can do to move past the pain, not dig yourself deeper into blame and apathy. And for God’s sake: Feel your pain. Don’t take it out on others; don’t suppress it; but just sit with it. Grieve, cry, write, meditate, or see a therapist, if you need to. Do whatever it takes to let go of the pain, instead of holding on to it as if it’s a badge of honor, because it’s not.