My favourite Don Draper quote from TV Series, ‘Mad Men’….
“My life moves in only one direction… forward”.
Don Draper is a man with a past he is leaving behind. The character has a past secret life that he would just as soon forget. He has entered a world he finds more befitting of his tastes, preferences, and capabilities. A far cry from being an orphaned farm kid from who knows where.
My motives for adopting this motto are different from Don’s. I have discovered that once reasonably dealt with, the past belongs right where it is… in the past.
There is an important difference between running from one’s past and leaving one’s past behind. Running tends to be fear or shame motivated. Leaving tends to be acceptance motivated.
I will never forget the period of my recovery where I began to gain a healthy acceptance of the past. The regrets, the shame, the costs, the pain, the resentments, the humiliation. I used to hide from it. I used to flinch over it. Until I heard enough fellow journeyers on the pathway of recovery share how they made the same mistakes. Felt the same regrets. Hurt others the same way I did. Wasted time and money.
Then, as my ears and eyes began to open, I came to realize that it wasn’t just us alcoholics and addicts who made huge mistakes and felt pain and regret about the past. I came to observe and conclude that this is pretty much ‘just life’. And having done dumb shit is pretty universal. Not the exclusive domain of alcoholics and addicts.
In fact, I eventually turned a corner and began to see that much of my dumb shit was done after having surrendered myself to mood-altering substances and practiced to perfection self-centred alcohilic thinking habits.
So if we were to compare regrets, who would have the bigger regret? The person who did dumb and hurtful stuff while intoxicated? Or the person who did similar things without impaired judgement of intoxicants?
Don’t get me wrong… dumb is dumb, harm is harm, and pain is pain. I am not trying to rank anyone’s behaviour. I am simply saying that my perspective flip-flopped from being one of deep regret and pain, to one of relief and acceptance that I really wasn’t any worse than many “normal” people.
I rarely flinch anymore when I recall the past. In fact, much of the past, I don’t actively recall anymore. Why would I if it has been dealt with, amends made, and issues closed? Time is precious and yields a better return when it is focused on today. And good todays give the best chance of good tomorrows.
I have stopped wasting my time and energy ruminating over closed issues. Instead, I invest my time in today.
I’m with Don. My life moves in only one direction… forward.