A tradition in my family is to constantly overwhelm ourselves with all the mistakes we made in the past and/or how our decisions back then have affected our lives now. It goes beyond that, for I do not have enough fingers and toes to count the number of people in my family – both the laws and the in-laws – who do absolutely nothing now out of a blind fear that they may make things uncomfortable for themselves in the future. Big “sorry” goes out to all of them for being so blunt (and you know who you are), but it’s the truth, and no matter how much you try to avoid it, life is uncomfortable.
I’m not sure where this comes from. Possibly it’s the good, Catholic system of guilt that pulses through our veins more strongly than even our platelets. It’s probable that this is a generational thing, where such pedantic and childish behaviors are passed down from generation to generation so that no one even realizes they are doing anything wrong. Perhaps it’s the fact that most of us are unable to accept responsibility for our lives now, and instead want to live in the past or the future so muddied with fear of screwing up that all we can do is loosely exist and go with the flow. In any event, it’s a daily thing in my world and I am sure is for many of you as well, faithful blog followers.
But is that really a happy place? For myself, and I have to assume the rest of you, it is not.
Let us overcome this mental midgetry once and for all. Really, all of our lives would be much happier and much healthier if only we didn’t have to hear ourselves and our loved ones bleating like sheep “…none of this would be a problem if you hadn’t…” There is no reason for it, and (to be honest) I think most of those that do such morally pompous sermonizing have no room to talk. Nietzsche once said that those who pose judgments on both themselves and others are merely trying to cut down everyone down to size so that they may all be equally miserable in our death march through life. This is, of course, an existential problem we all face – and while we could talk for days about why it is done, let’s focus on how to move on from it for now.
Step #1 Remove Your Head From Your Ass
That’s right! I said it! Now do it. I think that one of the main reasons people make moral judgments and wallow themselves in the mire of the past is simply because they can’t look at any view except their own. Particularly if someone is in a position s/he does not like and wants to blame others, the circumstance will always be viewed from the lens of “poor me, look at what I am stuck with.” So remove your head from your ass. Remember that you were an integral part in every decision that affected your life (unless, of course, we are talking about circumstances well beyond your control – most of which do not apply to people living in unoppressed nations). Removing your head from your ass and looking at everything from the perspective of other people, and everyone involved – in addition to your own – is the first step toward positive change.
Step #2 Learn (Don’t Punish) From Your Mistakes
Yes, indeed – learn from your mistakes. For example, I will never again eat at a restaurant in Los Angeles that is rated lower than an ‘A,’ for I have learned my lesson after spending two days with horrible food poisoning after a less-than-tasty bowl of grade B Pad Thai. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid all circumstances that in any way resemble ones in the past. That is a symptom of anxiety disorder in the DSM-IV, and frankly is just overkill. Bring your past with you as a tool, not a weapon; and don’t punish yourself and others and refuse to live as a result of it.
Step #3 Stop Judging Others and Look for Actual Solutions
When you stop judging yourself, you need to (along with that) stop judging others. Everyone is in essence living the same life, only with different variations of the story. What is most important is that we all move forward and actually live that story. Judging others and letting yourself join the ranks of the rest of the sheep with their incessant bleating of the “…none of this would be a problem if you hadn’t…” does not move anyone (including yourself) beyond the mire. It’s like the economy in this country right now: if only the politicians would stop trying to assess blame and point fingers, they would be able to all move forward with actual solutions. And as was discussed above, no one really has room to be making morally pompous assertions anyway.
Step #4 Step #3 Look At Your Mistakes as the Best Things You’ve Ever Done and Allow Yourself to Live
I cannot tell you how many friends I have that refer to their children as “the best, little mistake I ever made.” Unless you have a crystal ball or are a time traveler, you have no way of knowing what wonderful things can come as a result of the horrible mistakes you make now. Allowing yourself to make mistakes, accepting that you are just as much of a failure at life as the next guy, and realizing that it is what you do with your mistakes that in the end makes a happy life, is perhaps the emotionally healthy thing all of us can do. Life is all about screwing up big time. It’s about being happy too, and without some of the gargantuan mistakes we made in the past we would have not had some of the opportunities we find ourselves in the future. The old saying is that “the end of one chapter is just the beginning of another.” If you cannot get past that chapter you seem to be stuck on, though, then you will never be able to fully experience the rest of the book.