We often hear ‘don’t look back, let the past be’ or ‘don’t look back, life is meant to be traveled forwards not backwards’. While it makes sense I still wonder can we not go about this looking-back business in a new way? To be more specific, is it possible to look back (talking of life in context of times that have been anything but great) and say
“Thank God I made that mistake, look where I am today because of it.”
“Thank you oh dear universe for pushing me to face the shit that I needed to face to be able to experience and enjoy my present.”
Yes, I mean looking back at the bleak and depressing times of our life with gratefulness. Usually we associate being grateful with good times and regret or pain with the darker periods of our life but there’s no denying that our mistakes make us, that the times when we’re down and out or hurting define our life-scape way more than happier times. Why then do we choose to not look back at these periods with a smile and thank you in our heart?
One could argue that it is simply a matter of perspective. Of course it is but perspective is all we have. We have no real control not much anyway over what happens in our life then why not gift ourselves a perspective that helps make sense of life and that encourages us to feel happy about everything we get, not just the parts we approve of. It’s said there’s a silver lining to every cloud and it is up to us what we choose to focus on. But when we have moved on and the clouds are not hovering over our head anymore, we carry memories of those difficult times in us, memories that we do not cherish as much as those of sunnier days. I ask why not? According to me the cloud deserves our gratitude just as much as the sun if not more because it plays a role the sun never can.
When I look back at the mistakes I have made, which at that point of time I thought would change the course of my life drastically and lead me to a place I would not make it out of, I realise that it was just me being short-sighted. Perhaps that’s the way we naturally respond at such a point of time because we do not know what the future holds, we do not know what our mistakes are setting up the stage for next, we do not know whether there comes a slide that would land us into a pool of stinking water next or a staircase leading to a terrain we could not imagine. We simply assume that mistakes mean lots of shit ahead and we will be regretting them for the rest of our lives. But the teachings life has given me so far has changed my perspective about these challenging and mind-boggling periods by a full 180 degrees.
There were times in my life when I questioned if I would manage to make anything out of my life at all, when I wondered if that was the end of it (my dreams and happiness) all, when I wondered why did my attempts always end up a little short of the goal I was reaching for, when I wondered if I would have to spend the rest of my life living in a place I did not fit it and many other things. There were times when I was completely lost and hanging on by a thread, when all I could see on looking around was darkness but looking back I am full of gratitude because I know now the exact roles those times and mistakes played in my life. I know now that without maneuvering those curves I would have failed at that which I am doing today. I know now what I did not then and that gives me the power of gratitude.
I have heard many people say that they do not have regrets or that they live a life free of regrets. I am not sure what that means but what I am talking about is very different from a life free of regrets. I am talking about embracing with love every single mistake we make because every single one of them helps us become.
It is possible that you might not as yet understand the significance of all that you have gone through or see the point of mistakes you have made because you have not reached a place in your life that gives you a good view yet. I think it is still possible to be grateful if you entrust some faith into this universe. I do not look at such faith as blind faith by any measure because the amount of good in our lives usually outweighs the bad (everything is a matter of perspective before you disagree with me on this) and this outweighing happens because the universe is taking care of everything we cannot control.
No mountaineer reaches the peak of Mount Everest or Kilimanjaro without facing a tonne of storms but when they look back at their journey, if they choose to begrudge the challenges they faced, the point of reaching the peak would be completely lost. Such is life. Begrudging or thinking of our past mistakes or dark periods with sadness means we are failing to see the point and beauty of our present. Gratitude for the losses we have undergone, for the obstacles that left us bleeding and for the lack of direction in our life at one point of time, makes it possible to not only appreciate the place where we stand today but also feel light and not carry any unnecessary burdens as we move forward in our life.
That is why when I hear people say you cannot do anything about the past, let it be, let it go, I think to myself ‘of course you can do something about your past, you can be grateful for it’. There’s a big difference between just letting it go and being grateful for it. In the former, you carry much weight in your heart and mind while in the latter you carry nothing but love, perspective and joy that gives you wings which you could not have imagined yourself having before.