authentic stories · honest words · life · on life

The High Cost of Getting Stuck In The Past

Last week I wrote a very raw post on feeling lost, loneliness, and missing the comfort of home. What I am about to say will make even more sense if you have read it, so feel free to find it here. 

Have you ever heard anyone say, “Ah yes. Those were the good ole’ days” or “Back when life was so much better” with a deep look of longing in their eyes?

What can happen to us humans as we experience more and more life, as we age, or as we struggle to find meaning in our present reality is we actually start to paint a picture in our minds of a past that was better and more perfect than it actually was.

It’s why men in their 60s sit around listening to the music of their 20s and 30s, and why women look back at photographs of years gone past, longing for the old days, feeling convinced that their best days are behind them.

We all do it, yet some of us much worst than others.

And we get stuck.

The past has it’s own way of convincing us that if only we could have yesterday once more then we could be happy again.

But it’s a lie.

Science has proven that we each have our own happiness baseline. In a nut-shell this basically means that outside circumstances don’t really do anything to permanently alter our happiness level in life. We are either happy right now, or we aren’t.

Nothing outside really changes that because overall, happiness and contentment comes from within. Not from our location, our surroundings, our achievements, or even from our bank account.

Whether we realize it or not, we have a natural psychological tendency to over romanticize the past, to cloak it in brighter colors that it actually had, and to strip away it’s difficulties as though they never existed, leaving a more perfect and utopian world than the reality of our today.

As a result, we put our “old life” up on a pedestal which makes our current life seem to fall far short of achieving for us the happiness that belonged to where we were, once upon a time.

And we long to go back to a place that we no longer belong.

In my soul searching, I realized I have been asking all the wrong questions about this “new home” and new season, my family and I have come to. So focused on the pain of loneliness and the lack of the comforts of home; if I am honest I have been spending far more time wondering “What is there for me in this new place?” Rather than asking, “What is it I am supposed to do here??”

I have been convincing myself that it’s just not possible for me to be as happy where I am now because it seems like everything that brings happiness, comfort, and contentment is back there, where I came from.

I’ve been painting beautiful pictures of Egypt that have left me wandering around in circles in the wilderness, when there is an entire promised land stretched out before me – waiting for me to want the wealth of treasures I might discover there more than I want the memories of my past. 

Sure, we can stay in the past if we want. Comfortable, un-changing, familiar.

But it will come at a high cost.

And likely, we will never become anything more than we were 20 years ago.

If I am really honest, I would have to admit that the who my husband and I have become no longer even fits neatly or comfortably within the molds of yesterday. We realize that with growing sureness every single time we try and go back….and then I forget again when life starts to feel hard and a part of me longs to settle for a shoe that doesn’t fit our feet anymore.

When I long for something that feels out of reach, my human tendency is to settle for the meagerness of the crumbs I can see right now, rather than wait for the feast that is to come later.

Sometimes our past actually feels more comfortable than our future and we live our entire life in bondage to our own comfort and end up missing out on the freedom found only in unchartered territory.

Some of us will never experience the promised land, not because it isn’t there for us too, but simply because we were satisfied with the security and comfort of Egypt. 

Like everyone, I mostly just want my life to hold deep meaning and purpose.

friendsAnd so, because I whole-heartedly believe that outside of faith, connection with people and relationships are the majority makes like meaningful and purposeful, I imposed a little exercise on myself in which I actually sat down and wrote out the relationships I have. Old and new, near and far – some closer than others but still, most already existing, with a few potential new relationships.

 

My eyes surveyed my list and I realized, I have been so content to just stay with all that makes me comfortable, all that I don’t have to do the hard work with because “they know and get me” that I will never even experience the potential richness of relationship and life with the more unfamiliar names before me…most of who happen to be “near me” now.

The real problem isn’t that I’ve been dropped off  at a fork in the road with NO PLAN, or that the way hasn’t already been opened up for me; the problem is that familiar roads tend to keep us from taking new routes that lead to even more wonderful destinations we’ve never been.

roads

The truth is, new journeys are scary. And uncomfortable. And downright lonely at times. And sometimes it feels like we should have just stayed home.

But where is home?

Maybe it is not a place, or people, a building, or any location.

Maybe home is here. Right where we are, right now. Not in our past, not in our future and not something we “missed”.

There is an unchanging truth about life. Leaving where and who we were, hurts. It feels incredibly lonely at times. It’s uncomfortable, and scary. But going back would mean we never more forward.

I’ve been stuck.

But I can’t stay here because I’ve surveyed the cost, and it is far too high.

And I don’t want to end up 80 years old one day and realize I was all too content to play around in kiddie-pools, when there was an entire ocean waiting for me – too busy missing the safety net of Egypt, to even notice that a Red Sea had already been parted for me.

I don’t want to miss the wondrous miracle of my Promised Land because I spent my entire life wandering around in the desert, missing Egypt.

I sure love ya’ll. ❤

~Rachel

 

I just have to stop looking back, and cross it.  

I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me
Like a long lost friend

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
And the place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
And the future feels so hard
And I want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned

  • ~ Sarah Groves

 

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One thought on “The High Cost of Getting Stuck In The Past

  1. What a great “self-check” – I have been here, I get it – but the way you worded it was exactly what I needed to read. For me, I started my 1,000 gifts list and that has truly changed my daily outlooks – naming those things and bringing order to my chaos are what is so sweet to my soul…& it creates happiness in the now! So good Rachel! ❤️

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