“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Ah, the age old adage from writer and philosopher George Santayana. These words could not be more relevant than now as we watch the United States go up in flames from the coronavirus pandemic. The narrative is playing out exactly as it did during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. I watched a play-by-play analysis of the Spanish Flu response side-by-side against the current pandemic response and was struck by how the country learned nothing from this significant moment in history.
This should be of no surprise. When a culture prioritizes power, money, and dominance, its citizens will always be the collateral damage in that pursuit. Full stop.
For us as individuals, the past wears many different masks. It either haunts us with its traumas and mistakes or intoxicates us with its fanciful moments of nostalgia, trapping us in thoughts of what we believe was a better time. For my own father, thoughts of the past were something to avoid altogether as he had suffered great losses, including his mother when he was only 22. I remember asking him once why he seldom spoke of her or those experiences from his past and his response was both poignant and simple, “Sometimes it’s best to leave some baggage at the baggage claim.”
I never pushed for more as I didn’t want to open any wounds, but looking back on my father’s life, his temperament, and the ups and downs, I often wonder if he had engaged in a deeper examination of those pains, would he have made different choices, quelled certain impulses, or perhaps been more forgiving of his own failures?
While discussing the concept of resilience, a brilliant friend of mine, Rebecca, offered the idea that often when we are confronting difficult times, we prefer to frame our stories in either the past, the present, or the future. There is both power and safety in all of those frames, however, how do we use the past as a teacher and not as a captor, holding us back from living in the present moment? And how do we honor the possibility of the future without deferring our very present responsibilities towards our own growth? More specifically,
- How often do you live in the story of your past?
- How does the narrative of your past impact your relationships? Your accomplishments?
- How do examine the past without feeling like you are in full on therapy?
- Do you have a clear sense of who you were in the past relative to who you are now?
- How do you use that sense of identity to empower you in the present?
These are the things we will be discussing in the next Mombbatical Mindset conversation on Sunday, August 2nd at 11 am PST/2 pm EST/ 8 pm CET. For details on how to join the conversation, click here.