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Set GoalsThe end of the year is often a time of looking back.  What was great about the past year?  What didn’t work so well?  We often find ourselves performing a sort of audit on the past year so we can get a sense of closure prior to moving forward into the New Year.  Last week’s post, “Top 10 Posts of 2010” resulted from my reviewing all of the posts I had made to “The Healing Project” in 2010 and determining which ones represented my best work.

I conducted a similar audit on my life as a whole and came up with 15 serious personal and professional wins for the year (including regular blogging!), as well as three key areas of my life which didn’t go as well as I would have liked.  This audit created a firm foundation for my 2011 planning and I highly recommend that you do something similar.

New Year’s Resolutions

The start of a new year is generally a time when we look forward instead of backwards.  Many people set goals for the coming year, which are commonly referred to as “New Year’s Resolutions.”  While such resolutions get a bad rap from many people (often because they are typically broken within a few short weeks), I am a fan of designating areas to work on in one’s life.  In fact, this blog resulted from my wanting to change various areas of my life during 2010.

While my life is still a work in progress (as is the case for everyone), I have made excellent progress in healing various areas of my life since I set the intention to do so in early 2010.  I will be posting on my progress shortly as we approach the one-year milestone of “The Healing Project” on February 3, 2011. Stay tuned…

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Happy New Year!As we move into the final hours of 2010, I thought it would be appropriate to do a “best of” post for “The Healing Project.”

I started this blog in February 2010 and have made 50 posts to date. Regular weekly posts will resume next week (and will continue at least through February 2011 – most likely longer).

Which Posts Were Tops?

I have designated the following posts as the “Top 10 Posts of 2010.” This designation was made based upon several criteria:  post popularity, comments and feedback from others (either directly on the blog or to me personally), and my personal feelings about which posts were my best of the year.   The posts are listed from most recent to least recent and a post summary is included.  To read a post in its entirety, click on the post title.

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Festive holiday wreathAs this is the holiday season, I gave some thought as to what might be an appropriate post for “The Healing Project.”  While for many people, this is a joyous time of year, for countless others, it’s a time of stress and despair.

As I am not a particularly religious person (I always call myself “spiritual but not religious”), I have had to give some consideration as to what this time of year represents to me.  In this post, I share some of my personal insights on Christmas and the holiday season and what I consider to be the greatest lesson for this time of year.

It’s the Holidays – Time to Buy!

As Christmas approaches, we start to see the holiday decorations in the stores and television and newspaper ads for gift suggestions and sales.  We are told to show our love for those in our lives by buying them the “perfect gift,” often at a premium price.  Since many people are already strapped for cash in the midst of the recession, the stress induced by the pressure to buy is higher than ever.  We wrestle with questions of who to buy for, what to buy and how much to spend.

We rush out to crowded shopping malls and comb the packed aisles and racks in search of a gift which will either serve to express our love or fulfill an obligation.  Most of us don’t stop to wonder, “Is this what Christmas is all about?”  Religious or not, we can probably all agree that Christmas has been distilled down to a shopping  and buying related event in this country for many people.   If we think about it, we may consider it a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.

No Gifts – Bah Humbug?

In my family and circle of friends, there isn’t much gift-giving that happens anymore.  This started a few years ago with one family member opting out of giving gifts, and like a domino effect, virtually everyone else jumped on the “no gifts” bandwagon.  I now only buy gifts for a few people, although I enjoy spending time around the holidays with a number of others.  I consider it a win-win proposition, as I experience much less stress this time of year yet I still get to enjoy being around the key people in my life. However, without the hubbub of purchasing, wrapping, and sending gifts, I’ve had to give some introspection to the topic of what Christmas means to me.  More on that topic later in this post…

A Thanksgiving “About Face”

On the other hand, for many years, I dreaded Thanksgiving.  As someone with a long history of eating disorders, I didn’t like the association this holiday had with overindulging in fatty food.  I considered Thanksgiving to be a day when I would either have to veer off my Spartan eating plan or be faced with a barrage of questions as to why I wasn’t stuffing my face like everyone else.

I have since changed my perspective on Thanksgiving dramatically and now consider it to be a more authentic occasion than Christmas.  After all, the purpose of Thanksgiving is to simply reflect upon the blessings in your life and express gratitude for all that you’ve been blessed with.  If a person is religious or spiritual, showing appreciation toward God for what he has given you is a part of the occasion, but it also includes the expression of thanks to those in your life who have shown you kindness, respect, and love.

A Beautiful Thanksgiving Gesture…

I received a very touching letter (handwritten at that!) from a friend this Thanksgiving.  In this letter, my friend simply expressed her sincere and heartfelt appreciation for my friendship.  It wasn’t a long letter; in fact, it probably took her less than thirty minutes to write, address, and mail.  Yet this letter is one that I still have on my desk so I can read it every now and then, and it continues to bring tears to my eyes.  It feels so good to know that my presence in this person’s life is meaningful.  This friend doesn’t buy me Christmas presents, but I don’t care.   Her letter meant more to me than any Christmas present ever could.

The True Meaning of the Holidays

I shared the story above because I have decided that the true meaning of the holiday season for me is the message which Thanksgiving represents, gratitude and appreciation.  I’ve decided to not just take one day to reflect upon the blessings in my life, but to consider the true gifts that I’ve been given throughout the entire holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s – and hopefully beyond)!   I believe that most of us don’t take enough time to pause and express thanks for the bounty that exists in our lives.  If we think about it, the majority of us have more blessings in our lives than curses.

The Glass is Half Full

I’ve decided that I’m going to adopt a “glass half full” attitude toward life.  It really is true that whatever it is you are looking for, you are sure to find it.  If you search for what’s missing in your life, a list of the things you lack will be easy to compile.  However, if you take a moment to reflect upon what’s present, you’ll create an even longer list AND you’ll feel much better for it.

Don’t Wait to Appreciate Your Life!

I don’t want to wait until I receive a dire diagnosis or lose someone dear to me to count my blessings.  I especially don’t want to list my blessings in hindsight.  I want to enjoy them in the moment, where they exist each and every day.  So instead of lamenting my lack of significant income, I am grateful for the freedom I have to pursue my interests and passions and to be able to spend the majority of my days doing what I choose to do.  And instead of cursing the wrinkles and gray hairs which now mark my middle-aged visage, I am happy for the wisdom which I’ve amassed through spending 44 years on this planet.

I will not take for granted that I will be blessed with another 44 years or more, as that may not be the case.  The countless tragic stories we hear on the news and experience in our personal circles make it all too clear that we cannot control how much time we have.  In a flash, this miracle of life can be taken away from us.

Fear Not, My Friends…

The uncertainties of life do not have to make us sad or afraid.  If we live in the moment, we can experience joy and gratitude in every breath and in each blessed day.  I am so happy to be alive and I am so grateful for my life, flaws and all!  I appreciate the blessings which I have been given and I vow to carry that appreciation with me as I move forward in life.  As this holiday season progresses, I will strive to make every day Thanksgiving.

Closing Quotes on Appreciation

I close with a few quotes which I feel punctuate my message well:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Hilary Cooper

When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  – Meister Eckhart

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

Related Posts

  • The Practice of Gratitude: It’s been said that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I believe it’s true!  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  In this post, I outline a few simple yet powerful practices to help us stay present to the many blessings in our lives.
  • Missing Tile Syndrome: As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  This post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I present an overview of the concept of the “missing tile syndrome,” as well as the three main ways for dealing with it.
  • Staying Present: A few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.”  A primary reason for this was that my mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision has made a significant impact on my life.  This post looks at the dangers in not living in the moment, Louise Hay’s insights on accidents, and how staying present can help us to live richer and more fulfilling lives.

Big Question MarkDo you have trouble making decisions?  Is a decision as simple as what to eat for dinner or which movie to see enough to send your head spinning?  Do you second-guess your decisions immediately after you make them and wish you could turn back the clock and do something different?

Indecisiveness is a common problem and one I’ve suffered from tremendously over the years.  I have driven myself crazy when wrestling with all types of decisions, from the large to the seemingly insignificant.  I have wasted countless hours in weighing pros and cons and wracking my brain to make the “right decision,” and I have lost out on things I’ve wanted by taking too long to make up my mind.

Dennis Prager on Indecision

I recently listened to a broadcast of Dennis Prager’s Happiness Hour on the topic of indecision.  Both Dennis and his callers presented some powerful points on this important topic which have made a difference in the way I approach decisions in my life.  This post highlights some of these key points and I hope it will help you to combat the perils of indecision.

Dennis Prager gave an example of a man who was looking to buy a house.  He found two homes which met his basic criteria; both homes were great, but the man couldn’t make up his mind.  He had spent months trying to decide which home to buy and will very likely lose out on both options as a result of his indecisiveness.  I have had this type of thing happen to me with job offers and potential purchases.  Because I couldn’t make up my mind, the decision was made for me and I lost control of being able to decide my own fate.  I was paralyzed by my fear, so I didn’t get what I wanted.  I lost out on both door number one and door number two and was left “back at the drawing board.”

Looking for Absolute Certitude

Those who have difficulty in making decisions are looking for absolute certitude that they will make the right decision.  Unfortunately, that is something we just never get!  As Prager said during his broadcast, “Where in life do we ever get absolute certitude?”   Most of the time, we just don’t get to know what’s right beyond all shadows of doubt, so we have to proceed without knowing the outcome.

The indecisive don’t trust themselves to know or do what’s right.  They are plagued by both fear and self-doubt and are constantly looking for external validation.  It is not uncommon for such people to ask everyone they know for their opinion on a pending decision but not feel helped by the input at all.  They continue to engage in their “paralysis by analysis” and all their frenetic pondering only serves to keep them running in place and not moving forward in life!

Surprisingly Simple Advice

The advice given by Dennis Prager is surprisingly simple.  He recommends that when we are struggling to make a decision, we should ask ourselves, “What is the worst thing that could happen if I make the wrong choice?” A healthy attitude to adopt regarding decisions is to say, “So what if I make the wrong decision!” It is very rare in life that we can’t undo a decision.  Most of the time, we are able to turn things around if we find ourselves going down the wrong path.  Sure, it can take some courage and effort to course-correct, but it’s doable in most instances.

Even if a choice can’t be undone, often the gift of time will bring us perspective such that we don’t end up regretting what we’ve chosen.  For example, many divorced people do not wish they had never married in the first place.  Rather, they are grateful for the good times in their marriages, as well as the lessons they learned as a result of the dissolution of the union.

Two Good Choices, No Bad Outcome

When you think about it, many decisions are between two good choices and there are really no bad outcomes.  The man who was wrestling with his house decision had two excellent options before him.  While it’s possible that one house was a bit better than the other, neither would have been a bad place for him to live.  My struggle to settle upon a career bears strong similarities to the house example.  The options in front of me were all good and I seriously doubt I would have been miserable with any of them.  My indecision has led me to dabble in a variety of professions instead of resolutely following a singular path.  Thus, I have not achieved the level of career mastery that I would have hoped for at age 44.

My brother experienced similar career confusion for much of his life and found himself paralyzed by indecision for a number of years.  Fortunately, through the encouragement of his wife, he finally made a decision (without certitude) and became a teacher.  A decade later, he is satisfied with his choice and has made a difference in the lives of many young people.  Would he have been just as happy in one of the other professions he’d considered?  It’s very likely, as his options were based upon research and consideration, not random selection.

Set a Time Limit for Decisions

Dennis Prager recommends that we give some thought to the options before us and then make our decision!  It can be very helpful to set a time limit for rumination and consideration.  Keep the time limit short and after it has elapsed, force yourself to make a decision.  I remember a trick I learned (I forget where…) in regards to decision-making.  If you’re stuck between option A and option B, flip a coin.  On which side the coin lands is not nearly as important as your reaction.  You likely know in your gut what you want to do, but you are letting your emotions lead you astray.  The way you react to how the coin lands can tell you a lot about what you truly want to do!

Key Points on Decision-Making

I close with a recap of the salient points made by Dennis Prager:

  1. We never get to have absolute certitude regarding decisions.
  2. Ask, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
  3. If you wait too long to decide, you often lose out on BOTH options!
  4. Much of the time, the choice is between two (or more) good options.
  5. It is rare that a bad decision cannot be undone.
  6. Set a time limit for rumination and then make a decision!

While the points above may not immediately “cure” you of your indecisiveness, they can make a big difference in the way you approach decisions moving forward.  Setting a time limit can stop the “paralysis by analysis” phenomenon that can present a strong roadblock to your happiness.  Decision-making is a skill like any other.  With practice, it gets easier and you do a better job with it.  Won’t you join me in combating the perils of indecision?

Related Posts:

  • Facing Fears: Fear is a normal emotion and a natural part of life.  Fear can help us to steer clear of dangerous situations and it can help us to navigate safely through treacherous encounters.  While some fears can be healthy and helpful, other fears are actually detrimental to our happiness and well-being.  In this post, I write about how fear adversely affects our lives and examine one of my irrational fears and my powerful decision to face it.
  • The Tyranny of Shoulds: We all have a voice inside of our heads which tries to tell us what to do, how to act, and who to be.   Sometimes this voice is productive, such as when it moves us out of inertia and into action.  However, the voice can also be counterproductive or even destructive.  This post explores the dark side of our inner voice, the place where “should” and self-recrimination reside.    Some tips on escaping the “tyranny of shoulds” are presented to help us find a happy medium.
  • Don’t Worry!: Over the years, I have wasted many hours and sacrificed endless enjoyment by worrying about all sorts of things, most of which never came to pass.  This post examines the hazards involved in being a “worrywart” and presents some powerful insights from Dennis Prager and Gay Hendricks on the topic of worry.  You will learn some good reasons to stop worrying, as well as excellent questions to ask yourself when you find yourself engaged in this destructive and deflating habit.

CornucopiaAs this is the week of Thanksgiving, it seems apropos to revisit the important topic of gratitude.  I believe that gratitude is one of the critical ingredients for happiness!  When we are grateful for what we have, we are better able to live in the moment and enjoy our lives.

The Glass is Half Full!

No matter how many troubles we have at a given point in time, we can always find aspects of our lives that we appreciate and enjoy.   This “glass half-full” type of attitude can help us to embrace what’s right in our lives instead of lament that which we feel is wrong.

Some “Greatest Hits”

As this is a holiday week (and hence, there is more to do in less time…) and I have written quite a bit on the topic of gratitude in the past, I have decided to highlight a few of my past posts instead of creating all new content for this week.  The three posts which I have chosen to revisit all focus on the ever important topic of gratitude.  Please see the post summaries below and click on the post title to view that post in its entirety.

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite past posts.  As usual, your comments are welcomed!  I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s been said that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I believe it’s true!  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  In this post, I outline a few simple yet powerful practices to help us stay present to the many blessings in our lives.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  This post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I present an overview of the concept of the “missing tile syndrome,” as well as the three main ways for dealing with it.

This post was written at the halfway point of my year-long quest to heal my health and my life.  Since beginning “The Healing Project” on February 3, 2010, I have gained a number of powerful insights about myself and about life.  I summarized my insights in four categories:  gratitude, attitude, hope, and healing.  I expand upon each of these items and commit to continuing my healing project and sharing even more wins related to health, relationships and success moving forward.

Top SecretI don’t really like the word “addiction” because it carries with it a sense of being completely out of control or even victim to a particular type of behavior.  I think this attitude is a big part of why I never stuck with the 12-step programs I attended for both my eating disorders and codependent behavior. I couldn’t get past the first step, which is “I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and my life has become unmanageable.”  While I was more than willing to cop to having an unmanageable life, confessing to powerlessness was just something I could never do.  I guess I’m just too much of a control freak!

Do What Works!

It is not my intent to either criticize or advocate the 12-step philosophy.  I know that AA and associated programs have helped a lot of people over the years and very likely could have helped me as well had I steadfastly adhered to the steps.  My best advice is always to do what works, and what works can vary for any of us as time goes by.  My current choice is to follow Louise Hay’s advice and philosophy outlined in “You Can Heal Your Life.”  Louise addresses the concept of addictions in detail in both her book and the corresponding companion book.

This post outlines Louise Hay’s philosophies on addictions, as well as some of the advice she gives for releasing addictive behavior.  I also share some secrets regarding one of my compulsive behaviors and the insights I gained from completing the Chapter 6 exercises on addictions in the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”

Louise Hay on Addictions

Louise Hay believes that addictive behavior is another way of saying, “I’m not good enough.”  When we engage in compulsive actions, we are trying to run away from both our uncomfortable feelings and ourselves.  Some feelings we have are so painful that we do not want to look at them, so we drink, abuse drugs, overeat, gamble, spend too much money, or any number of other actions which serve to numb our feelings and allow us to escape from reality.

Louise believes that the first step to overcoming what we’ve termed addictions is to acknowledge that there is a need in us to engage in these self-destructive actions.   In order to stop the compulsive behavior, we have to release the need which is underlying it.

Fearful and “Not Good Enough”

According to Louise Hay, the addictive personality is generally a very fearful one.  People who are consumed by their compulsive behaviors tend to be highly fearful of letting go and trusting the process of life (“control freaks,” anyone?).  They often believe that the world is an unsafe place full of people and situations that are just waiting to create stress and pain in their lives.  They also tend to be highly critical and unforgiving toward themselves and may even suffer from acute self-hatred.

People who suffer from addictions never feel that who they are and what they do is “good enough,” so they punish themselves day after day.  The addictions are a way of both punishing themselves and suppressing uncomfortable feelings and memories.  The addiction becomes “the problem” and the person may focus all of his or her energy on that instead of looking at the underlying issues, which are most often related to a lack of self-love and self-approval.

Keys to Releasing Addictions

As with all problems that people experience in life, Louise Hay believes that loving and approving of oneself are the keys in releasing addictions.  Also critical is learning to trust both yourself and the process of life.  Of course, these things are easier said than done, but that is the reason for “You Can Heal Your Life” and The Healing Project.  It isn’t easy to release addictions and heal our lives, but it IS possible!

The exercises in Chapter 6 of the YCHYL Companion Book provide a good starting point for examining the beliefs and attitudes which underlie compulsive behaviors.  One of the exercises asks us to list ten secrets that we’ve never shared with anyone regarding our addiction.  The objective is to look at our very worst actions and to be able to love the person who did those things.

My Secret Addictive Behavior re: Shopping

The main compulsive behavior in which I engage at this point in my life is shopping and overspending.  I realize that this behavior is compulsive because I often feel ashamed and remorseful for my actions.  Many of my actions are secretive and manipulative.  My husband has entrusted me with managing the household finances, so my subterfuge is not all that difficult. However, since the goal of my “healing project” is to heal myself and my life, I want to overcome my compulsive shopping “addiction.”

In the service of that goal, I will share a few of the secrets I listed in the exercise described above.  I realize that I may be harshly judged for my behavior, but I am a big believer in the notion that “the truth shall set you free.”

  • I hide new clothes and put them away when my husband isn’t around.
  • I use “creative accounting” to make it look like I’ve spent less money.  I put clothing and accessory purchases in other “buckets,” such as gifts, beauty, and household.
  • I change the dates of purchases so that it won’t look like I’ve spent too much money in any given month.
  • I use store credit cards (and sometimes even open new accounts) so that the bills won’t come until later.  I know I will have to “face the music” later, but at least I’m able to get my “fix” in the moment.
  • Sometimes I buy something for myself along with a gift for someone else and account for the entire purchase under “gifts.”
  • I buy things to get the thrill in the moment and later return them so that I can shop some more (this is a more recent behavior but is happening a lot).

Insights and Forgiveness

Although I am embarrassed to reveal some of my secrets regarding shopping, it feels liberating to be open and honest with my readers.  Now that I look at my secrets again, I realize that they are not that bad.  I am able to follow Louise Hay’s advice to look into the mirror and tell myself, “I forgive you, and I love you exactly as you are.”  I may not fully mean what I am saying just yet, but the important thing is that I want to mean it.

Beating myself up for my past actions doesn’t solve anything and only serves to make me feel worse, which may lead me to compulsively spend more money.  It is far more productive to face the music, forgive myself, make amends where needed, and commit to loving myself more and doing better in the future.

Some Final Words from Louise

We don’t have to keep punishing ourselves for our past wrongs, either real or imagined.  Holding on to the past only hurts us because we are not living in the moment and experiencing all of the good things which life has to offer.  The past is over and cannot be changed!   By reliving the past, we strengthen our emotional attachment to it and punish ourselves today for what cannot be undone.  As we let go of the past, we then become free to use all of our mental power to enjoy today and create a bright future for ourselves.

I close with a few powerful affirmations from Louise Hay on the topic of addictions:

I am willing to release the need for ______ in my life.  I release it now and trust in the process of life to meet my needs.”

No matter what the past may have been, now in this moment I choose to eliminate all negative self-talk and to love and approve of myself.”

No person, place or thing has any power over me.  I am free.”

Related Posts

  • Overspending: Sometimes I lack self-discipline, and this is particularly evident related to shopping. I feel as if I lose my sense of reason and rationality when I find myself face-to-face with new things. This post highlights a recent shopping trip during which I overspent and how I felt following that experience. I also start to look at the issue of compulsive behaviors in general and how they are about desperately trying to fill an internal void inside of us.
  • Compulsive Behaviors: Over the years, I have struggled with various forms of compulsive behavior, including dieting, compulsive overeating, excessive exercise, overspending, and working too much.  You may have grappled with similar issues, or you may have had problems with drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, or any number of other maladaptive behaviors.  It doesn’t matter which of these behaviors has plagued you, the problem is usually rooted in the same causes. This post is geared toward examining compulsive behavior, getting to the root of why we engage in such destructive actions, and looking at what we can do to begin to turn it around.
  • Key Principles – Part 4: Louise Hay asserts that when we really love ourselves, everything in life works. When we treat ourselves with loving kindness, we experience a number of life benefits, including decreased anxiety, increased inner peace, improved relationships, and enhanced health and well-being.  This post explores the topic of self-love and how it is integral to healing ourselves and our lives.

Sins of the Past

Woman in deep thoughtYou’re probably familiar with the expression, “my past came back to haunt me,” and you likely have some personal examples related to this phrase.  While it is always good to live in the present and embrace “the power of now,” do we ever fully escape our pasts?  Can we truly be free of our mistakes and poor behavior of years gone by?

This post will focus on our so-called “sins of the past” and how they affect our lives in the present time.  I will relate personal examples pertaining to my past relationships and physical health, and do my best to provide useful insights and suggestions for letting go of regrets and repercussions from the past.

Reminiscing… Or Not?

A few months ago, I wrote about going through boxes of old mementoes in preparation for moving and vacating our storage unit.    These boxes included old cards and letters from many years ago (as long as 20-30 years back!) that I hadn’t looked at in a very long time.  While I found it both interesting and exciting to look back and reminisce, the process also illuminated some personal history that was surprising and painful to remember.

While I consider myself a compassionate and thoughtful person today, I haven’t always been so kind.  In fact, I treated some significant people in my life very poorly in years past.  I wasn’t malicious or evil by any means, but I was driven by fear and selfishness.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I suffered from depression and eating disorders for the bigger part of a quarter century, beginning in my early teens.  During that time, I was extremely self-absorbed and far more concerned with my own wants and needs than those of others.  I often had a negative attitude and I allowed my bad moods to affect those closest to me.  Suffice it to say, I wasn’t always a “picnic” to be around.

We Can’t Turn Back the Clock

As I’ve matured and taken more responsibility for my own happiness, I have become increasingly more considerate toward those around me.  Although I sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and treat my past close ones with more honor and respect, I know this is not possible.  I know I have to let go of the lingering guilt and move on, especially in regards to those to whom making amends is impossible due to either death or disconnection.

Health Hazards

My past sins also extend to the way in which I treated my body and health.  For many years, I starved myself, over-exercised, purged, and engaged in other harmful behaviors.  I pursued thinness relentlessly without much thought to how it would affect my current or future health.  When I finally emerged from my long battle with eating disorders in my mid-thirties, I believed that I was relatively unscathed in terms of my health.  Sure, I had experienced various digestive complaints over the years, but I thought those would surely subside with better eating and lifestyle habits.

Fast-forward to the present time…  My digestive tract is a mess and I’ve recently had to drastically change my eating habits in the hope of managing my conditions without lifelong medication.  I’ve suffered from migraine headaches for twenty five years and I’ve endured a variety of other physical complaints that have caused me a great deal of distress.  I am beginning to wonder to what degree my past “health sins” are responsible for the current state of affairs.

Hindsight is 20/20

As the old saying goes, “If I had it to do over again, I would do it all differently.”  Of course I would, as would many of you if you could be young again knowing what you know now.  Unfortunately, we can’t do that, so we need to make peace with the past and forgive ourselves.  But how do we do that? That’s the $64,000 question!

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I have learned a few things along the way.  I’ve learned that beating myself up because I used to abuse my body and my loved ones hasn’t helped me to feel better.  On the contrary, my self-flagellation has only served to make me feel worse about myself and my life.  I’ve learned to ask myself whether or not a particular line of thinking is serving me.  If the answer is no, I do my best to consciously shift to a more productive thought pattern.

Finding the Lessons from Pain

One thing I’ve found helpful is to search for the lessons I can take from past experiences.  Gaining awareness and self-knowledge from painful memories can create alternate meaning beyond the regret and heartache. It can be helpful to either journal about the lesson or discuss it with a caring friend or family member (or a therapist).  It can also be fulfilling to share lessons learned with the young people in our lives, with the hope of potentially sparing them from pain.

The Perils of Self-Pity

It can be compelling to feel sorry for ourselves when we are going through challenging times.  The drive to ask “Why me?” is common, but it is not helpful.  When I had a serious recurrence of my digestive issues two months ago, I became angry, especially when I read that I didn’t fit the common profile for this disorder.  I considered myself unlucky and lamented my misfortune.  However, that train of thought only pushed me further into despair.  It quickly became obvious that I needed to pull myself from the abyss and face my challenges head on.

Blaming ourselves or feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t useful.  I’ve had to forgive myself for the ways in which I mistreated others and myself during my earlier years.  While it’s true that I may be physically ill today as a result of my misguided actions of yesteryear, I had no way of knowing I was causing myself lasting damage.  Sometimes the “whys” of given situations are immaterial.  The most important question we can ask is, “What now?”  This question puts us in the driver’s seat and propels us to take action to move us to a better and more empowered place.

We Are All Products of Our Pasts

We all have our “sins of the past,” but our past history and what we’ve learned from it is what has made us who we are today.  We are each a product of our past, sins and all.  I am happy to say that I like the person I am now, and I know that my current challenges will bring more lessons and only serve to make me stronger in the future.

I am gradually forgiving myself for the past and learning to live in the present moment, the space where all of our power exists.  All we have is the here and now, and what’s done is done.  Let’s learn what we can from the past and then let it go so that we can create a compelling and empowered future for ourselves!

Related Posts:

  • Staying Present: A few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.”  A primary reason for this was that my mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision has made a significant impact on my life.  This post looks at the dangers in not living in the moment, Louise Hay’s insights on accidents, and how staying present can help us to live richer and more fulfilling lives.
  • It’s Always Something! – This post looks at another mysterious and unexplainable health challenge that I experienced earlier this year.  I explore Louise Hay’s probable emotional causes for this condition and how they apply to my personal situation. I also explain how writing my blog is helping me to heal myself and more fully express my creativity.
  • Revisiting Loss & Letting Go: Fifteen years ago, one of my closest friends committed suicide at the age of 32.  Although I don’t know if one is ever completely “over” a loss of a loved one, I thought that I had mostly moved on after the passage of so much time.  However, when I recently came across an old box of mementoes of this friend, I found myself unable to open the box and look at what was inside.  This post explores the issue of loss and how being stuck in the past can hurt us.   I also look at how facing things instead of avoiding them can set us free and help us to heal.
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