While watching the 1975 documentary-film Grey Gardens, a lovely but haunting quote by Edie stood out to me:
Its very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present... do you know what I mean? Awfully difficult
And although I am still quite young, every year that goes by I notice this truth more and more, maybe because I gain more experiences with each day that passes. What happens is, I tend to have a lot of "what if...?" moments, which turn into a session of simply getting lost in my mind figuring up a scenario of what the present would be like if I had done something different in my past.
What if I tried harder? What if I took that position? What if I stayed in that city?
Reflecting on your past is definitely a good thing to do, in fact I'd consider it critically important to help us make sense of how things are today, to prevent us from making the same mistakes over and over again. The key is to not get lost while doing so. You see, the past can be very fuzzy, occasionally an all-too-sad victim of poor memory (or illness) or the rapid pace of life.
We often have feelings and attachments to the past. The past can sometimes be a b*tch, it's hard to let go of, and it affects us emotionally. But learning to let go is a very important lesson to learn in life; unfinished business is nothing but a heavy anchor, and it will pull you further and further down until you can let go of what's stopping you from moving on.
Focusing on one's future isn't the best alternative either. The future is very indefinite, anything can happen. And if you do indeed focus on it, the moment will gone before you know it, as it has now become present. I actually see a lot of my friends focus too much on the future without trying to make a change to get where they want to. It is not healthy to live for an "until" moment, and by this I mean "I can't wait until... I graduate; I run a business; I marry; I have kids...".
Of course it is a good idea to have plans and dreams, I'm not saying you shouldn't! What I'm referring to is that you should not live for a future moment. You never know what will happen, there is no way of knowing. The best you can do is plan and work in the present to reach your goals. Which takes me too..
This leaves us with the present, simply where we are right now and where our mind should be focusing on.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. [...] No, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on ...
No matter how hard we try, we won't be able to avoid the influence of the past. It's simply present throughout our physiology as a result of past action. We do not enjoy being disciplined. The most morable experiences are often also the ones that were quite painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way.
Nothing and nobody can change what has happened. Learning to forgive yourself is a challenge, it will take time, and that is completely alright. As long as you are working towards fixing that, you're doing the best you can! If you ever feel like you aren't what you wished you were, that doesn't make you a failure. Once you're on the ground the best thing you can do is pick yourself up, you can only move forward. As long as you are working on that, you're doing your best. Plan ahead, as failing to plan is planning to fail. The most important piece of the puzzle is to know when to focus, and when to understand. Our focus should always lie in the present, while we should understand our past, and understand where things are going. Understanding, and more importantly, accepting what has happened in our past is what makes you you. Perfection isn't possible, I can personally tell you that by experience, but progress is.
Our past and our future are supposed to be supporting positions to have a better Now, not a collection of broken promises and promises soon-to-be broken. Focus on yourself at this moment in time. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes, and work towards realistic goals, no matter how small or large these might be.
I am sharing my thoughts on this situation because I've been all-too-focused on all three tenses recently. After hearing the quote by Edie I wanted to share my opinion. After breaking up with the person I thought I'd share my life with, I fell into a whirlwind of dreaming about my past, thinking about what went wrong, what happened, what could have gone differently. Then things changed, I forgave myself, I started accepting what happened and starting planning out my life, checklist, item by item everything that I wanted to do. This is when I got stuck in the future. I spent too much time wondering what it would be like to do this, to have that, to live there. I completely neglected the present, I didn't think about me right now.
It's not an easy thing to let go, it's also not an easy thing to stop hoping and not acting; the hardest thing though is to work on getting yourself to where you want to be, being happy with where you are right now and working on all those things on your to-do list, checking them off one by one.