Building on the Past

Almost no one I talk to had a happy childhood. We mourn our past as the present trickles by. We want to live it over, do it better, get the mom or dad we really needed.

We can't re-write the past.

What we are doing, of course, is using our adult selves to direct what we should have had as kids. What would happen if you asked yourself, “What would I be today if I had the childhood I so badly needed?” Maybe you did have the childhood you needed then to become the person you are today.  You are you because of your past. You learned lessons you could not have learned had you had that ideal childhood. What did you learn? Maybe it was patience, self-discipline, discernment, independence, self-reliance, or determination. Maybe you learned how to survive. Not a bad skill.

When we treat our past like a swamp, we stoke it until it takes over our present, eating at us, whining at us to blame everyone who didn’t reach out. No doubt they should have, but they didn’t. And tomorrow, they still didn’t. And meanwhile, you are missing out on today’s life.

As we go through the days, mourning our past, we rip each day off the calendar and trample it beneath our feet. The calendar hanging on the wall gets thinner and thinner, as our days get fewer. We still grind each day beneath our feet, treading it into the past that does not change.

What if we handled that calendar page differently? What if we wrote on it–across the big numbers, around the margins, filling it with what we accomplished, how we moved forward, how we celebrate our skills? Then take the calendar page and tuck it back into the end of the calendar.

As the days run on, instead of the proof of loss under your feet, you have a record of what you have created, what you have made. The calender is a bit wobbly with all those loose pages, but it stays full and stuffed with facts, growth, with reminders of how far we have come.

We cannot change the past, but we can change how we see it. We can use it as rich ground to grow our future. Our lives can be the journals that track our steady movement ahead. To become the people we always wanted to be.

Quinn McDonald is a journaler of  life. She did not have a happy childhood, but she is having a hell of a time now. She’s the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.