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It's Not About the Past. It's About Taking Our Joy Back.

I've struggled at times with the idea of making peace with my past.

bathing dangerously

What does it mean to make peace with it? Does it mean that I have to come to a place in which I am okay with that bad stuff? Does it mean I have to let it go and be done with it as though it didn't happen? Does making peace with something mean that it doesn't affect me anymore? Making peace with the past often sounds akin to wilful amnesia, and I'm just not that good at forgetting.

I've decided that making peace isn't about forgetting or being unaffected. I've decided that making peace is about gaining a practical and balanced perspective. The bad stuff is still there, but I can come to an understanding of its proper proportion and shape in my life so that it no longer dominates my heart and mind, clouding over my decisions and my ability to enjoy being alive.

Sometimes it's hard to gain that perspective, though, and I don't feel like putting in the work. I just want to eat, sleep, do my jobs, and stop with all the complication. It's at those times when it seems better to just choose the evil I know and keep on going the way I have been.

I had an epiphany in the bath today, though, that made sense of why working toward a balanced perspective of the past continues to be important, even if you think you can continue to handle its negative fallout just the way you are:

Putting the past into perspective isn't about the past;
it is about claiming our natural ability to experience and create joy in the present.


The same negative history that makes me at times cynical and angry, that makes me feel small and unwanted and hurt, that makes me feel unworthy, steals from my experience of joy, as well. That feeling of unworthiness tells me that I am undeserving of joy, and, not only that, it also makes me believe that what joy I do experience is accidental and beyond my control. If I am not worthy of it, then it's certainly not mine to have and create.

When I feel like I can live with the anger and occasional depression, I'm right, I can, because I'm a pro at that, but can I live with the knowledge that I am also choosing to live with less joy when I do so? That's a double-whammy of bullshit right there when I look at it in that light. I can live with the depression and the anger, but I can't live with knowing that the rest of my life will be less bright because of it.

Up until now, I've hated the work of dealing with my history, but that's because no matter what I did, parts of my past still sucked, and I felt like I was just dragging myself through the muck repeatedly. This revelation makes sense of it now, though. I can't make the negative parts of my history better, but I can knock them down to size and put them in their place so that the past can't keep stealing stuff from my present that doesn't even belong to it.

My joy is mine. It belongs to me, even if the past tends to get a little big for its britches sometimes.

And again, because I mean it:

Putting the past into perspective isn't about the past; it is about claiming our natural ability to experience and create joy in the present.

That was some bath I just had.