Yesterday I was reading a romance novel and was brought up short at one place when one of the characters quoted Soren Kirkegaard. Trust me, characters in romance novels don’t usually quote philosophers, Danish or otherwise. But these words just made so much sense:
“Life must be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.”
I spend a lot of time looking backwards at my life, at successes and failures (always more of those), things done and left undone, repenting choices I didn’t make and blaming myself and others for things that didn’t turn out the way I wished. I do that with food all the time, and failed attempts to lose and keep off weight, gym classes I skipped, clothes I “shudda” bought (or not).
It takes a lot of energy to do all that backwards-looking and what happens is that I end up at best staying in place and at worst, being lured backwards into past behaviors. That’s not to say I can’t learn from the past and need to spend time doing that — but what I really want and need to do is live forwards instead.
What would that look like? It’s like looking into a foreign country; I have a lot more experience with my head stuck in the past, at least where weight and body things are concerned. But putting on an imagining hat … it would be liberating to not move through life chained by things I did or were done to or around me. To not be playing “what if” and “if only” and instead, really being present in my body and my life right now.
It would be obviously a mental and emotional change but also a physical one as well. Instead of dwelling what I had “always done” badly, I could just try them now and see how it goes. I could go dancing. I would take vacations with friends. I would be eating healthy without fretting over every bite. There would be walks and swimming and regular exercise just because I want to and feel better when I move. I wouldn’t be obsessed with what I couldn’t do with physical limitations but finding ways to do more within those limits.
With the blessing of distance and time, I would find a way to keep the past in the past, without emotional baggage to drag me back. I don’t need to live there to learn from events and emotions that are behind me. They would just lose the power to harm and cause me to stumble.
“Life must be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” That’s where I want to be. How about you?