Everyone has a past.
Sometimes that past empowers us, giving us the knowledge, skills and confidence we need to take on new situations.
Sometimes that past haunts us, memories of failures, attacks and habits that were counterproductive, hurting us and keeping us afraid and small.
Sometimes that past points the way to our future, revealing what is essential and true about us. Before we are trained to fit in, our nature does show.
Sometimes that past is full of things we have left behind. “Sure, I used to wear diapers, but I don’t wear them now. Maybe, in the future, but not now.”
Everyone has a past, growing up requires that we need to own and shape our relationship with that history. Where do we need to follow that history, bringing out the best of us, and where do we need to transcend that history, leaving behind the worst of us?
Madeline L’Engle: “The best thing about getting older is that you are still all the ages you have ever been.”
Kate Bornstein: “And all the genders, too!”
How much do we feel required to deny, erase or otherwise distance ourselves from our past, from our stories?
For anyone who knows themselves to be a changeling, having moved beyond a past, this is a challenging question. We don’t want people to pin us down just because of choices we made in the past that we would never make again, but neither do we want to feel deep shame about our past, letting it haunt us in ways that keep us walled and defended.
Places in our past we have walled off are unhealed places. They hold power over us in unhealthy ways. And they will never stay completely hidden. For example, there are lots of mothers who have to face their teenage choices again when they see them reflected in the choices of their daughter.
When we face that emotional territory again it is easy to feel the pull of those old choices, the unhealed parts of us rear up and take control. They may push us to wall up and be defensive, may push us to stuff our pain, or force other kinds of destructive behaviour coming from the well of unhealed pain.
The time to reminisce, reflect and unpack our past is when we feel strong and centred. If we don’t do it then, we will have to do it when it something triggers our feelings and our history rears up and bites us in the ass once more.
Becoming new is hard work. Growing up requires putting aside childish things, approaching our life with mature context.
Our past very much helped make us who we are today, for good or for bad.
We build a new past everyday, though, moment by moment. It can be full of repeated, unhealed patterns or it can be transcendent, gracious and considered.
We all have a past, no doubt. But we all have a future, too, and we shape that future with not our last choice, but with our next one.