All of us have a past which includes good and bad memories. If you’re like me, you want to remember the good and forget the bad. The truth is that our mind doesn’t work that way. At any point, one of your five senses can kick in, and you instantly remember an event in your life.
Having annual vacations, dinner with the family around the table, taking the extra effort to be with close friends, sitting on your porch with a good cup of coffee and meditating are all good memories worth creating and repeating.
Some of my fondest memories growing up on the farm happened around the supper table. It was the one constant in my life that never changed in the 19 years I lived at home. It was the place we talked about our day and what we did. We learned how to share and put others first because Mom would make just enough for all ten of us. We weren’t able to dish out as much as we wanted until everyone had their first helping.
While I choose to remember the good memories, there were also times around our supper table that were not pleasant. The point is that I remember both.
We want to remember only the good, but the bad memories plague us as well. We try to delete them, but they keep coming back.
Our memories, both good or bad, can never be changed. It’s like they are set in concrete. Going back to them cannot change what happened.
Around that same supper table, I also have vivid memories of a family dinner that was unsettling for me as a fourteen-year-old. We were sitting around the table, and my oldest brother was upset about the rules of the church. My parents wanted all of us to be good rule-followers which included being respectful towards them. That night the rules were broken and the atmosphere became very tense.
My brother threatened to leave home and move to California. He eventually stomped upstairs, leaving the rest of the family to sit in silence until my Dad closed dinner with a prayer. (A daily custom in our family culture.)
No one said a word, but I noticed my mom was crying. Mom and I went upstairs to my brother’s bedroom as he started throwing clothes in a bag getting ready to leave our family. I do not remember if I said anything. I only remember my mom asking my brother not to leave home. I felt the need to stand with my mom to comfort her. (I was stepping into my role as family peacemaker.)
My bother did not leave home that night, and we continued our daily family suppers with little disruptions, but I was always a bit anxious about how they might go from that point on. We never talked about it again.
I learned at the supper table that we don’t talk about what happened. We pretended it didn’t happen. That’s how I began to live my life. I buried any pain I experienced.
I learned to go from one pain to the another and keep burying it because I didn’t know there was an alternative. I used to think that if I ignore my bad memories long enough, they will go away, somewhere into outer space never to be remembered again.
It just doesn’t work that way. Closing the door to your past is a myth.
A couple of years ago I experienced something that nearly stunted my progress emotionally and set me back in my progress towards freedom. My frustration was at an all-time high, and I was disappointed I allowed myself to go back to isolation because of this situation. Isolation was always my place of comfort when I didn’t know how to make peace.
I was talking with God about my confusion, and my thoughts were interrupted by a clear picture of a white door. The setting was in a clear blue sky with a few puffy white clouds. The white door was in the distance, and I walked towards it. I was intrigued and wondered what it meant.
When I finally got to the door, I heard a voice inside of me telling me to open slowly and walk through it. I opened the door slowly and turned to close it when once again the voice said, “close it slowly.”
What I knew at that moment was that I closed the door to my past, but I did not slam the door shut. The visual showed me my past was clearly behind me, but I had the freedom to go back through the door and revisit anytime I wanted.
I needed that experience to help solidify the freedom I had experienced. I knew I was free from the guilt and shame of my past, but I decided then that my past is a part of me. I cannot deny it nor can I allow it to defeat me. The door gives me the freedom to revisit it anytime I need to.
Our past has made the path for us to become more than we were yesterday. We can ignore, deny, or try to forget it but in some way, it’s always there.
You can use your memories as a bridge to your future or a bridge to your past. It’s healthy to use the bridge both ways. Today I have a deep settled peace about my past that overcomes the years I believed my past would always haunt me. That visual showed me that my past would always be remembered, but it would not dictate my behaviors in the present.
Through the years I’ve learned the value of confession, counseling, and being real with a friend to help you work through the past. I cannot describe the difference it has made in my life! I have lived in the freedom that comes with being real, transparent and vulnerable in my relationships.
Is your past traumatic, unforgettable, and weighing you down? Look for the white door and walk through it courageously.
It is possible to make peace with your past so you can enjoy today and look forward to tomorrow.