If you want to create something new in your life, you must first recognize what of the old you can and must, leave behind.
I firmly believe we need to learn to tell our histories better, so that we can set them free from our future. What I mean to say is, when we begin to carve out new relationships or new ways of being, we have to carve through old habits, old perceptions and old, clogged filters from what we have experienced in the past – in order to experience something new in the future.
As I am meeting someone new, I do that through the lens of what I have previously learned about people. Where I have learned to be untrusting, or insecure I cannot help but enter into the knowing of that person with all that past colouring the present. What I am learning (quickly) is how vital it is not to place all of my old brokenness on the shoulders of the future. How to move from experience to learning and then moving forward into the future and new spaces.
If this sounds a little philosophical, well – it is. Most of us don’t think quickly or practically enough about how our previous experiences shape the way we engage in new experiences. We forget to learn as we go, therefore we repeat the same patterns over and over. If previously we’ve experienced pain and rejection from sharing our true selves and we learned to hold back from sharing ourselves fully, then we likely continue to withhold as we move into new ways of being.
The funny thing is; for those of us who are constantly meeting and engaging with new people – our habit should be the opposite. We should be, all things considered, pros at learning about ourselves from these frequent new encounters. Constantly evolving and developing a clearer sense of our own identity. Instead, our habit seems to be to repeat the same behaviours and ways of thinking, interpreting and engaging with the world around us until we find a social group or partner that fits our view-point.
This seems like poor logic when we consider it in the harsh light of day. Surely, a more realistic perspective is to learn from every encounter and relationship, brief or ongoing, as we learn about ourselves and others in more meaningful and whole ways.
While I look through the lens of my past, I can’t really see the person of the present I’m looking at. I see them instead through the murkiness of people I’ve known before, always expecting to be hurt, disappointed or rejected in the same ways I have been previously. In this way, I easily manipulate the present into a replay of history, by measuring today’s actions or absence against a historical catalogue. It’s so unfair to burden another person with failure or hurt because of some other experience I had, long ago.
It’s not really a fair or meaningful way to engage with the new. If I can learn to acknowledge and understand my past as a set of unique experiences, including the people I have encountered and what I have experienced rather than a summation of truth, then I am on the way to healthy thinking. It’s flawed logic to assume that because every experience with a certain type of person – say a doctor, has resulted in pain – that every experience with a doctor will result in pain. In fact, many encounters with doctors result in healing. But if you base your understanding only on what you have experienced, you will always have a narrow and limited view of what is possible.
However, if I can acknowledge what I have learned from the people and experiences I have encountered as a set of learnings rather than a set of irrefutable facts, I have a better framework to understand myself from. I can understand what makes me fearful, or excited. What makes me feel insecure and what makes me feel challenged. I am immediately better prepared to have honest conversations about the present moment.
The lens of the past tells me that I am often unwanted and easily discarded after brief encounters. I have learned that I am momentarily pursued because people seek to meet their needs in my openness, but then I am done with and put aside. People quickly disappear. I have learned, I should not be too strong or forthright or intellectual because it is intimidating (or so I have been told). But equally, I have learned it is lonely to play in the shallows of conversation for a long time.
None of these things are necessarily real or true of the people I am with in this moment. There is no prescription that they must play the same cards or read the same script as those who have been this way before. In fact, chances are they are a wholly different creature and therefore I have the chance to be more myself, than what I have been before. Chances are, old patterns will come to life again if those are the only ways of being I allow to emerge. I have to take responsibility for making something new out of my life, not just hoping for change.
I can be deep or playful, witty and clever or simple, straight and easy; the only thing I need to be is real and truly myself. A dirty joke here and there; a tendency to push the boundaries when it suits me, freedom of speech to say and share what I want, freely – all these expressions of a confident woman, that lurks beneath the surface of this old, creature of history, unsure of herself.
When I let that uncertain, insecure woman come back, I am adrift in unsteady reflections – looking to the faces of others to see myself, instead of the mirror within. I like the woman I see in that internal mirror, I know her well by now. She is a dear and mysterious friend, a warm lover and a fiery ally. She is certain, she is steadfast, she knows herself. She is giving, passionate, soulful. I want her to be known.
She is my true name, my true self. She doesn’t hide behind anything. She is stronger, smarter, more loving, more generous.. somehow better because of all she has learned and grown through so far.
So, when we do this dance, learning one another through history and present; it’s her I wish for you to know. The one who emerges out of history and crossing through the present, she emerges into the future. New. Stronger, smarter, better and eventually – grasping your hand.