Hope is a tricky thing when the future is hazy. It feels like you’re doing a thousand-piece puzzle, with no idea of what the end result will look like. No matter what, though, I know this: It’s not going to look like the past.
Your past is only your past.
It is not your present.
It is not your future.
This is an incredibly encouraging thought for me, because it means that regardless of what failure I’ve experienced, or what hurt I’ve felt, or what hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would, I can leave that in the past. It does not have to be a predictor of the future. I don’t have to carry my baggage from season to season, subconsciously marking the should-haves or could-have-beens.
And yet – easier said than done.
This time of year, I cling to every bit of sunlight we have. The other night, the sun peeked out at twilight, soft glow and delicate colors, and I watched for a while as it settled to deep blue. On the outside, I was quiet, but inside, I was dancing with echoes of the past. What rose up in me was both gratitude for the beauty inside those memories, and an acknowledgement of all the things that hadn’t gone the way I’d hoped. For too long, the gratitude had been interwoven with the disappointments, and I knew I couldn’t carry both any more. I’ve chosen the beauty, and it was time to separate it from the heavy expectations of the past.
It was time to let go.
It was time to let go, and for me, that process begins with rest. It begins with letting my guard down, getting really quiet, and allowing myself to face whatever baggage I’m carrying head-on. It’s uncomfortable, for sure. It’s much easier to reach for distractions to drown out the internal chaos, but that rarely fixes anything. I can chase distraction for a while, but eventually I wind up feeling tired, withdrawn, jealous. I find myself fighting battles I shouldn’t be fighting, trying to cram life into my idea of what it should look like, looking for growth and fulfillment in all the wrong places. I get stuck on wanting a road map, and a timeline, and guarantees, and there are none. And perhaps ironically, the thing that holds me back the most is that I get just plain tired of going over the same hurt, the same frustration, the same disappointment. It’s much better to deal with them honestly than to continually push them away, because then I can finally move on.
I believe acceptance is a practice, and a process. Those impulses, the ones that tell us things should not be the way they are, are there for a reason, and we owe it to ourselves to reflect and evaluate honestly before deciding acceptance is the way forward. But sometimes it becomes clear that acceptance of the past is not only necessary, it is in many ways the foundation of the future. We all get hurt. Life is not a smooth ride, but I think the worst thing we can do is keep going over it. We may want to wait for “everything to work out” before we let go, but the blessings and the lessons and the beauty of what we thought was a broken season are much more likely to appear once we’ve moved on and gotten some perspective, and when we’re not wound up so tight.
Let go. Open up. Find hope.
It’s not a way back I’m looking for, but a way forward, not a re-creation, but a re-design. I’m looking for a whole new way of being within the present, and becoming who I need to be.
I spent two full weeks coming back to this mantra every single day:
Your past is only your past
It is not your present
It is not your future
Open your heart to forgiveness, love, and wide-open possibility.
This is not the end. The story isn’t over yet. When we can truly believe that, even if we don’t see the redemption yet, we can shift from a sense of doubt to a sense of possibility. We can take the beauty in our memories and leave the rest as we move forward. This is the key, always has been: Find new ways to look at it. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep looking, keep working, keep thinking, keep praying. And rest when you need to.
In recognizing that, I was able to find some perspective, and peace, and deep gratitude.
The answers are not magical. I wish I could tell you it’s a simple decision on a glowy January night, but it’s far more than that. It’s a process. There’s still no roadmap, still no timeline, but there’s hope for the first time in a long time.
I genuinely have hope that it’s all leading somewhere, that all the tenacity building up in my bones is there for a reason, but for now, on the days when it feels like unending grey and futility on every side, I remind myself, this is not the end.
This is not the end.