My youngest son just turned seven. On a birthday, I always gaze down the path of the past. I allow myself some time to reflect on the year that just passed, all the ways that child changed, what they experienced and how they affected me. It is always beautiful, but also a little bittersweet. Especially with my youngest and last child. Each milestone in some way represents the last time you’ll celebrate walking, losing first teeth, learning to read, etc… They grow and get too big for picking up and fitting into your lap, and it can be sad (like so many “last times” are).
Reflecting on the past can be quite a rabbit hole though, can’t it? When we look back fondly and are filled with love for the memory, that is one thing. Once we start feeling LACK of no longer having that in our lives that is the threshold of the rabbit hole. Something similar can happen when we have a glimpse of pain from the past. As soon as we pull that memory and all of the hurt that went with it into THIS moment, we are at that threshold. And as almost all of us have experienced, it is way too easy to give in and suddenly find ourselves tumbling down that hole.
If you spend too much time at the bottom of that hole, you are basically living in the past. And whether you are reliving the good old days or keeping a wound fresh and open, the one thing you are not doing is living in the present. But the present is all we have, people. This is it.
What happens if I really give into the sadness of no longer having a baby to cuddle? What happens if I dwell on the inevitable exit these boys will make from my physical world as they grow up and move on? Aside from the self-imposed heartache, I do myself the biggest disservice of all. As I wallow in my lack, there is an adorable seven-year-old bouncing around my house being hilarious and goofy like only a still-little kid can. And I’d be missing it. I’d be missing the very thing that gives me such joy to look back on during birthdays.
Our memories are a gift. They can either be a source of great joy or a source of great learning, but they are a gift nonetheless if we choose to see them that way.
So today I have an invitation for you. I invite you to choose a memory that usually gets you stuck and play with it. Allow yourself to feel it and find that threshold. BEFORE you fall in, ask yourself what it will take to keep yourself out of the rabbit hole.
Distraction? Make a list and choose one to divert your attention.
A happy focal point from the present moment? Among your current blessings, what or who do you want to give your attention to instead?
Reframing the experience as something to learn from? If so, what do you think the lesson was for you?
Forgiveness? Would this sometimes challenging but life-changing practice free you in some way?
Wouldn’t it be amazing to know you can glance at these memories (both beautiful and painful) and know that you can keep yourself present, and most importantly, out of the rabbit hole?
For some of you, this might be a pretty major endeavor. If you’d feel safer doing this exercise together, please send me a message and we’ll set up a time for that.