Have you ever talked with someone who just cannot get out of a horrible relationship? You know that they are in a terrible place. They may even know it, but they are stuck. You can have every justification in the world for ending it, but some people still find a reason to hang on. Or if they do break up, they get back together. Then they break up. Repeat. Repeat.
It’s tough and annoying to watch someone circle the same storylines so many times. I think what happens in many cases is that they break up, and then they are sitting at home alone and get to reminiscing. They start thinking about the good times. “Remember how he would tell me he liked this dress?” “Remember how she used to hold my hand at the movies?”
They think about those happy moments instead of also thinking about how horrible it was. “Remember how he cheated on me?” “Remember how she put me down in front of my friends?”
Doctors sometimes refer to these sorts of issues as the “Battered Person Syndrome.” It’s basically what we use as justification to keep returning to the past.
Beyond the scene of bad relationships, I think we also suffer from this desire to return in many areas of our lives.
College. Cities we lived in. Addictions. There are many different places to return to.
I loved my time in DC. In some ways I wish it were longer. But it wasn’t. I’m here in Florida now; it’s where my life has taken me. Still, sometimes I get to thinking, “Remember how much fun it was playing kickball on the mall?” “Remember how great that apartment view was?”
When I only think about those things, I start to wonder if I was an idiot to leave. Then, I have to remember the bad. “Remember how the traffic was always packed, even at 4pm on a Sunday?” “Remember how everything cost three times as much as it does in Florida?”
I have to remember the bad. (I know it’s not the most uplifting of phrases.)
It doesn’t mean I want to look back in anger or frustration at my time spent there; I can look on it fondly. I just can’t allow it to make me second-guess where my life is now. Whether or not I end up moving back to DC in the future, I don’t want it to be because I regretted ever moving. Regret moves you backwards, and I don’t want to go backwards.
There’s a line from Billy Joel’s song “Keeping the Faith” that has always made me think.
“You know the good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”
We can tend to get caught up on the glory days and miss the beauty of the future. We spend our days wishing we had what we used to have, and trying as hard as we can to return to it. The problem is, it’s not returning. Life churns and turns like a runaway river. We have to remember the good but also remember the bad.
To be clear, I don’t advocate for dwelling on the negativity of your past or anything like that. That’s not what I’m saying, and that’s not my point. I’m talking specifically about dealing with our regrets and fears. The kind of fears that glorify a past that maybe shouldn’t be so glorified. The kind of fears that want to return you to a place you shouldn’t be anymore.
When you spend your time looking backwards, you miss out on all that is happening right in front of you. The future is always a bright one because it’s full of new days. Sometimes it’s scary, but it’s coming whether we embrace it or not. I say we embrace it.