Remember it, but don’t live in it…

January 16, 2019

The past. For some the past is not just a time to be remembered, but also a time that they can’t seem to escape…a place that they chose to live in today. The inability to put the past in proper perspective and live in the present is a part of what we now call PTSD. The terms “shell-shocked” and “the fog of war” were used after WWI to describe that state offacing the wall 2 mind in which many soldier returned to civilian life. Whatever it is called, a major component of this condition is the inability to put the past behind and forge a new life ahead. You might occasionally encounter an ex-soldier with this condition wandering the streets. But, they might tell you that they are not wandering. They are “out on patrol”. They are living in the past.

For some who suffer from this condition, only professional help will be able to bring them into the here and now. For many it is enough to find a new mission, a new purpose, a new place to belong, a new “family”. A key factor in the inability to let go of the past for many soldiers may be that the friends they had in stressful combat situations became like family to them. These were people that they counted on to have their backs in modern soldierfirefights and to watch their backs on patrol. For many, younger soldiers, who were experiencing their first time away from their birth homes, these buddies became their family. When they return from these experiences in foreign lands and are released from active duty, many do not find any replacement for that feeling of mission or family, even if they return to their birth home. Some choose to live in the past, reliving their time with their buddies in combat, where they felt more comfortable, more “at home”.

Soldiers aren’t the only ones who suffer from this condition. Many of the mass shooting tragedies that we see in the news today have at their root a failed relationship – a romance or marriage gone bad. Some of the perpetrators in those cases may seek revenge as closure, a way out of the trap of the past that they have been living in. Most end with their own, self-inflicted death. These are people who can not put the past behind them and live in the moment.

It may seem like a daunting task to try to help someone with this condition. Many are initially resistant to help. But, remember that a key component is the lack of a new “family” that they can relate to and feel comfortable with, a new squad to be a part of with a new mission. Perhaps that s why programs to match up veterans struggling withman with dog PTSD with dogs is so effective. Dogs provide unconditional love in return for their care and caring for them provides a sense of purpose and mission to the vet. Caring for the animal forces them to live in the present.

Dogs can provide a wonderful first step back into the present for many of those vets, but you can provide the next vital step, if you will jump in and help. You can become that buddie that they can talk to and share stories. You can become a source of ideas and inspiration to take the necessary steps to get back into the mainstream of life and the workforce. Some may not realize that the time that they spent in the service equipped them with many of the skills that are valued in the workplace. The ability to take instructions and act upon them and the ability to work within a team structure are critical skills in today’s workforce. The old squad in combat becomes the work team in the plant or office. Help your buddie see that he/she can be a valued member of a new family at work and after hours. Help them stop living in the past and encourage their listenparticipation in the here and now. Let them know that you have their backs.

For those non-soldiers whose sense of loss or fear or self-doubt has driven them into isolation and a life in the past, it is important that they, too, find new purpose and relationships in the present. You can provide that bridge to the present by committing little more than your time. Just spending time with them listening is sometimes the best way to help them find their way out of the past. Just responding with comments like, “that must have been great, but what are you doing now?” might help. The idea is to help them re-establish perspective…to see that those things are in the past and that they need to focus more on the present. Perhaps the most difficult situation to deal with is the loss of a loved one – a spouse, a parent or a child. The challenge is to help them see those memories of the lost one as a place that they can visit from time to time… hopefully a happy place, but not a place to live in.

I love this quote from a book by Beryl Markham from her book West with the Night“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

The past is no place to live, but you can get stuck there sometimes. I’ve written twice recently about living in the moment and this little quote from George Harrison ties these two themes together nicely – “It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”

So remember the past, but don’t live there. Learn from the past, but dwell upon it (or in it). Your past might have been happy or sad, wonderful or horrible, boring or fulfilling; but, what are you doing now?

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What are you doing with your nows?

January 15, 2019

In today’s installment fo the blog Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed used this quote from Emily Dickenson – “Forever is composed of nows.”

Jack went on to write about listening to the tick-tock of a grandfather’s clock in his home and equating each second,  each tick and tock of that clock to a now moment. Being the good ex-Pastor that he is, Jack also reminded us that only God can count the seconds in forever. What are you doing with your nows?

Many of us tend to think that things will go on forever, whether it be our lives, or our loves or our loses or perhaps our loneliness. Both Dickenson and Jack were correct to point out that the forever that we see is composed of a whole bunch of nows. We don’t know how many nows we will have (only God does); so, we can’t control that part of forever. What we can control is how we react to the nows that we encounter in life – how we deal with life’s setbacks, as well as to the successes that we have in life. Neither will last forever. They exist in the nows and must be enjoyed or dealt with there. What are you doing with your nows?

The fact is that “forever” is different for each of us and none of us knows how long that is. Tragedies like the accident that killed an entire family from Dearborn happen in life and for each of them their forever was different. There is a popular saying that you see on T-shirts – Live every moment like it was your last. That was in the lyrics of a song by the Canadian group Nickleback – If today was your last day. What are you doing with your nows?

This is not to say that you live life with total abandon and disregard; but rather that you savor each moment that God give you here. Draw life in alike a deep breath and appreciate its aroma. Experience those around you and celebrate the differences that you discover. Don’t pass through your nows without thinking about them. Be aware of your presence and the presence of others in those nows. They are not throw-away mpments; they are part of your forever. Use each one in some meaningful way, because you won’t pass through them again. What are you doing with your nows?


Live in the moment, live for the moment…

January 8, 2019

Seen on an email message recently – “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” – Omar Khayyam

There was one of those “miracle” stories on the national news last night about a man who had been given up for dead by his doctors and family. He had suffered what was thought to be a fatal stroke. He was completely unresponsive and appeared to be brain dead. The family had made the decision to take him off the life support systems in the hospital and had begun making funeral plans. Then “the miracle” occurred. He woke up. Apparently, he had been suffering from a rare condition in which the brain literally shuts down. There is a big, fancy name for it.

Now, after a period of rehabilitation, he is back to a normal life with his family. Saying that he and his family now appreciate the moment and live in the moment is probably an understatement. None of us should have to go through a situation like that, but all of us should appreciate the moment and live in the moment. Just being alive to enjoy the moment is a great thing that we take for granted and don’t appreciate.

Take time each morning, when you wake up, to thank the Lord that you did wake you and that He gave you that moment to live in. If you start out by just appreciating that youthis-is-me are alive, it will make planning and doing something with those moments that you have been given more meaningful and fulfilling. There are no boring moments, no dreaded routines or jobs, no wasted time, no crushing fears or aching loneliness. There are only moments that you have been given here on earth to be alive. Live in them and be thankful that you got the chance to experience them. And, live for the next moment, for things will be different then.

One never knows how many moments we have in life. Being more aware and smell-the-rosesappreciative of those moments as we live them heightens our experiences and allows us to learn and grow with each passing moment. It also allows us to avoid living in the past and helps us focus upon the future – the moments that we anticipate just ahead.

There is a saying that goes something like “Live life as if each moment is your last”. The underlying philosophy which that saying is espousing is not to live life dangerously or stupidly, but rather appreciatively. As Khayyam put it –  “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”


Start with a mirror…

January 3, 2019

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed used this quote – “I haven’t got the slightest idea how to change people, but I still keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should figure it out.”  (David Sedaris)

Most of us have probably had thoughts of “changing” someone that we meet during the day, whether it be making physical changes to the way that they look to changing their behavior. Many marriages end in divorce because one of the parties was unsuccessful in getting their mate to change into what they wanted them to become. Perhaps it is human nature, or human ego, that leads us to believe that we can effect change in others.look in miror

The reality is that the only person that we have the power to change is the one that we see when we look into a mirror. We can change how we interact and react in our encounters with others. We have the power to change or abandon the preconceived notions that we have when we encounter someone who looks different or is dresses different or who talks differently from us. We can control or stop the rush to judgement over the statements or actions of others. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Our interactions with others, and our reactions to others, is based off our own frame of reference – our backgrounds and the circumstance that lead us to this place and time. Somehow, we have less problem giving deference to the differences in people that we can identify as having come from a foreign land. After all, they didn’t come from the complimentsame frame of reference that we have. Yet the same idea holds true for all of the people around us; we just don’t give a break to those that we see as coming from environments that we believe are the same as ours. But are those environments really the same? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Is the difference in background environments from ours any less dramatic for someone that grew up in an urban housing project than for someone who just immigrated from another part of the world? Why would we give the benefit of the doubt and try harder to “understand” the one and not try with both? Is there any reason to become immediately boredsuspicious of or frightened by someone of color or someone who is very large? How can I explain my reaction to the color of someone’s hair or the clothes that they choose to wear? These things are not things that I can change; however, I can change how I let them affect me and how I react to them. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

The first step to making changes to that person you see in the mirror is stopping to understand that a reaction has just been triggered within you to something in that person whom you just encountered. Was it fear? Was it a prejudice? Was it a lack of understanding of their frame of reference?  Is it real or imagined? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Once you stop and take that moment to recognize your initial reaction, you can begin to make the changes in you that control those reactions. If you can recognize and deal with those triggers before you actually act or react, you will have gone a long way towardsfacing new day becoming a better person and will likely find that your life becomes much more satisfying. It’s like moving from a monochromatic view of the world into a full Technicolor world. Living without the fears and prejudices that were dictating your life will allow you to embrace the diversity around you and learn from the different backgrounds of those that you encounter. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

life-choicesSo, don’t worry about changing others. Look in the mirror and try to get that person straightened out. You’ll be glad that you did. We can change that person that we see in the mirror…and they will be a better person for that change.