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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Three little words – live within today…

August 15, 2015

“The past, the present, the future are really only one; they are today.”  (Harriet Beecher Stowe), as seen at the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Harriet’s little quote is good advice to take to heart. It does no real good to spend time reliving the past or worrying about the future. We can’t change or control either one, so that is wasted time and energy. What we can do is focus upon today. We can enjoy today, we can react to today’s events we can live within today.

visualizationWe might spend some time planning for something that we’d like to do in the future – tomorrow or beyond – because many things require advanced reservations, commitments or plans; however, until we get to that time we cannot really live it or react and respond to the things that might happen. We might waste a lot of today if we get too fixated on the future, so it would be better for us to live within today.

I am certainly guilty of sometimes spending too much time worrying about what might happen tomorrow. I tend to play out all of the worst-case scenarios in my mind and try to anticipate how I might react to them. What a waste! None of those imagined things ever seems to happen. In fact, the only place where there is usually any drama at all is in my mind. Do you ever do that? Wouldn’t it better for both of us if we could learn to live within today.

As I get older there is also a tendency to re-live the past, especially as more and more of my relatives or friends and acquaintances are now referred to in the past tense. We use the term reminiscing and that sounds pleasant, but it too is really just a waste of time, albeit a waste that can bring a smile to my face from time to time. Still, other than filling an idle moment, more important and fulfilling than reminiscing is to live within today.walking man

So, don’t spend time re-living the past or worrying about the future. Here are way too many things going on around you a the time, people to meet and places to go, to be traveling backward or forward in time. Today; right now; this is the most important thing you have to do – live within today.

Have a great weekend – it’s all around you. Live within today.


What it was, what it is and what it yet may be…

July 15, 2015

“People always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.”  (Marcel Pagnol) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Ways blog recently.

I have some fond memories from the past, but I’m not sure that those really were “the good ole days.”  There wereman relaxing
lots of things that could have been better back then and many of them have gotten better. Perhaps we were better off somehow when we were not as connected as we are now. There is a simple contentment in being blissfully ignorant about what is happening around you.

politiciaN SPEAKINGPoliticians almost always try to paint a picture of better days ahead for America, as if the present is somehow terrible, especially if the other party can somehow be blamed for the mess that they say we are currently suffering. Most of us likely think that things will get better in the future, although the recent Great Recession has left a lingering pessimism about that future. For some the good ole days will forever be the pre-recession time when money flowed like water and no one was concerned about tomorrow.

As for the present, many have adopted the phrase “it is what it is” in a defeatist acceptance of things that need to be changed or improved. I prefer to say “it is what we make of it” and look for ways to change the things that need attention. What is you view of the present? Is it a pit that you feel trapped in or a springboard for tomorrow? Are afraidyou just accepting the day as it happens or using the day to make things happen? Do you see yourself as a victim of circumstances or as an victor in the daily struggles of life. Do you ask “Why me?” or say “Why not me?” Are you looking for excuses or looking for opportunities? The day , the week, the month and the rest of your life is what it yet may be. What are you doing with that?

The future may be less resolved than you would like it to be, but it is only through your resolve that it becomes clear. It is what you make it. Have a great day and resolve to look for opportunities not excuses.


Start the year by considering three words, three words and five words…

January 1, 2015

The words to pause and consider are …What it was, what it is and what it yet may be.

The media tend to spend a lot of time at this time of the year looking back on what was and pundits are called upon to look ahead and make predictions (which, of course are reviewed at the end of the next year to see which came true).

What it was – It’s not a bad idea in our own lives to pause and look back at what was, realizing that all of those things (both good and bad) are in the past. The value in looking back is to try to learn from those things and, hopefully, be able to do less of the bad things and more of the good into the future. This is something that should not be dwelled upon for too long.

What it is – Pausing to look at where you are at today gives you the foundation for making thinking hardchanges. Taking the time to do an honest assessment of your current situation will allow you to plan properly for the prospects that you see (or desire) in the future.  The key is to be realistic with yourself.  Don’t BS yourself if you hope to plan to get ahead. Sometimes it is valuable to get some honest third party input on this topic. You may need that to honestly answer the question, “Am I as good as I think I am?” More on why that is important below.

What it yet may be– This is the most important thing to think about and should be is a combination of your hopes, dreams and aspirations. More importantly these should be the thingswomen dreaming that help you set your goals. Being realistic about your goals in life is important, too. I have read many stories about very successful people who were able to set high, but realistic goals, once they let a dose of reality into their planning. It’s great to have a dream of being a major sports star or perhaps a Rock Star; but, if you’re only a mediocre athlete or an average singer in a small garage band it may be time to get real. If you love the industry and want to remain a part of it, perhaps you can focus on being one of the successful industry players around the periphery – sports or music agent or producer or reaching goalperhaps a stage hand or umpiring official. Many people who take those routes end up quite successful and still get to hang around with the sports or entertainment performers that they love.  An important point here is that taking this route may be better for you than abandoning your dreams altogether and looking back later with a bad case of the coulda, woudlda, shoulda’s.

Where do you go from here?

For some the year may have ended in a failed marriage. I hit that a lot in my real estate business. This process of reflection, assessment and planning provides the opportunity to clean the slate and start fresh, perhaps with a new relationship in your future. A clean slate in those cases doesn’t just mean trying to wipe away the memories of the ex-partner. It also means trying to see and old cooupleunderstand the roles that BOTH parties may have had in the failure of the marriage. Once you can see the things that perhaps you did or could have done differently in the partnership to make it work, you are on your way towards maybe having a successful second chance – one that works this time. Trying to go forward with the chip on your shoulder that the fault was all the other person’s is a sure receipt for repeating the disaster. That person is gone. Focus upon fixing the person that you still have with you.

For some, perhaps the year ended in loneliness because of the loss of a life partner. There is no reason that you cannot find happiness and companionship again with another person. There are introductionsocieties in which a widow is expected to live alone for the rest of their life; ours is not one of them. Any partner with whom you were happy would want you to continue to be happy and that means having the companionship of someone new. Appreciate what you had in the past, but move on with life. You needn’t fear having to go back into the dating game. You might be surprised how the “game” has changed, especially if you are a bit older. Maturity does a wonderful job of refocusing people away from the superficial things that seem so important to the young and onto the things that actually provide the foundation for lasting relationships – personality, humor, interests, etc. Modern technologies and social media have also made it much easier to find a new partner.

For most of us the challenges of life as we start a new year aren’t quite as big or dramatic; so, for us this time reflection, assessment and planning is a chance or renewals  or mid-course corrections. Maybe we just need to renew and revitalize our goals, perhaps taking this opportunity to reprioritize some of the plans that we’ve been executing upon. For some, maybe it is time for a mid-course correction. You’ve been working towards your goals for some time and now you’ve facing new daylooked up and assessed. Are those goals still valid? Is that what you really want to achieve; or, do you now see that this either the wrong destination or just a stop on the journey towards where you really want to end up? Either way, it’s good to find that out, so that you can make course corrections. Maybe you got a degree in one thing and now realize that you don’t want to pursue that field as a career. Your degree is still worth something and maybe you can apply some of what you learned in a different field. Maybe it will just provide the base from which you can get further education in the field that you now see for yourself. The important thing is to realize that you need to change courses and go for it.

So, take time as you pause to begin a new year and look back on “What it was”, take a good look at ”What it is” and then spend some time contemplating “What it yet may be.” The past is written in the books; you are living in the present; but, the future is yours to shape. Have a great year ahead – it is yet to be.