"Look at life through the windshield,
not the rear-view mirror.”
~ Byrd Baggett
Listen up. You're over the hump now. It's like Thursday at work, and you know that tomorrow is Friday and "Let's par-teee!' Yes, you've been through a traumatic experience ( divorce, death in the family, a terrible illness). But you're back on track. Still, there's one something you need to watch out for: living in the past.
For some, living in the past is recalling "the good ole days" in a relationship with "My good man that got away" or "That fine sister I let go." This is the one you still think about at night, even on some nights when you're with someone else. This is the one whose tender, sweet love and understanding haunt you at one in the morning, long past Keith Olberman, John Stewart, Steve Colbert and a host of commercials a bout Viagra and exercise equipment.
Embellishing upon history (if not rewriting it altogether), you recall how her warm smile and sweet demeanor was always there. Or you remember how, when he was away, he remembered to call and never hung up without saying, "I love you, baby."
Now, the daddy hates to say this, but by visiting history's home and staying too long, you could also be leaving the home of reality and heading for a freefall. You could be starting to live in the past and not moving to live for today and all today infolds-- living for history, and not for today and tomorrow. The daddy thinks it's time to sip that second cup of coffee and think of ways to make history today.
It's important to live for today and not dwell in the past. Living f or today means living with full awareness of one's environment, immediate and otherwise. it means being knowledgeable, not only of what is happening to ourselves but others around us as well . It means setting and priorities for our own lives and supporting other those goals and priorities of others, especially those of family and friends. It means living in today's world alert, active, and not allowing past experiences-- personal or political, bitter or sweet-- to keep us from being the person we can be i whatever role we play in life: father, mother, brother, sister, friend, citizen, daughter, doctor, nurse, pilot, flight attendant, maintenance, nun.
History is wonderful as a marker of a person, or a people's, evolution or progress, but it is no substitute for living. And while psychiatrists may benefit financially from you continuing to remain stuck in the past, it behooves you-- at some point-- to state calmly and slowly, "I- will not-be controlled-by my past. I- will take control- of my life-and make history today." Of course, if that doesn't do the trick, climb up a mountaintop and shout at the top of your lungs down into valleys, ghettoes, barrios and projects like Moses:
"I WILL NO LONGER BE CONTROLLED BY MY PAST!
I WILL TAKE CONTROL OF MY LIFE AND MAKE HISTORY TODAY!"
Face it: Some of us need to hear this over and over again, because we've allowed ourselves to become stuck. Was it an unworkable relationship and bitter divorce at the end? Domestic violence? An unfair job demotion? Being fired from a job because you spoke up? Denied yet another job because you're African American, Hispanic, a woman, or suspected of being gay? Regardless, dwelling in past experiences that produced such pain, and such raw emotions, can keep you from living today.
This is not only true for individuals but collections of people as well. For example, many African American have overcome obstacles of racism and poverty and excelled in their careers and in life . But many continue to be mired in dire poor, dangerous neighborhoods, with few marketable skills and even less hope. It is difficult not to wonder if this segment of African Americans continue to struggle with the holocaust of slavery and its economically and psychologically shattering political and economic structure of apartheid called sharecropping.
Some African Americans need to be reminded that history is also a part of the present. But some of it need not be our future. As the late great people's historian John Henrik Clarke was fond of saying, "All history if a current event Everything is everything." But he also said that, to survive , take the best from the past and bring it into the present and move forward. That, he said, is the only way to ensure a promising future.
Though Dr. Clarke was speaking to African Americans as a people, his wisdom applies no less to us individuals. He's saying that you should take the best from past relationships and make it work for your relationship today and for your happiness tomorrow. It doesn't mean that you forget the past. On the contrary, it means that you utilize the best of it to carve out a better tomorrow.
Now, the daddy wants to ask you something: are you living in the past or for today?