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The Rear View

October 13, 2014

People do odd things when they are bored. Say for instance the guy I saw the other day trying to run backwards on a treadmill. I don’t really know what he wanted to achieve but if you ask me, that’s more like courting disaster, but like I said, guys do some really odd things when they are bored. Of course seeing this guy doing what he was doing on the treadmill got my ever active mind wandering.

Imagine a situation where everyone on the street is walking backwards. Just the thought of it conjures some very weird images in my mind; this would be like a scene from a twilight zone. The only person who was allowed to do this is the moonwalker, aka Michael Jackson the late. Well, for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I am referring to the dance style he applied when dancing to the song “Billie Jeane”. 

Anyway back to my odd thoughts. How about a street full of people who are walking normally but instead of facing where they are going, they are facing where they are coming from. Can you imagine the number of “accidents”?  How about drivers who instead of focusing on what’s ahead of them they keep looking back at where they have come from? Unless one is reversing, the back should not be your focus except for the occasional peaks to ensure that the guy behind you is keeping a safe distance from you.

Unfortunately most of us go through life facing the wrong direction. Most of us are driving using the rear-view mirror instead of facing in front where we are supposed to be going. In other words, most people are living in the past. What do you mean by this Liz, you might ask. Well, let’s just say that a lot of people silently suffer a little known syndrome called AVP. Avoidant Personality Disorder is a disorder that causes someone to keep reverting back to past experiences leafing through the huge mental encyclopedia they have kept of past hurts and wrongs. Such people have the ability to quickly “look-up” various incidents and emotions to remind themselves of each failure.

What is interesting however is to note that even though they may have gone through amazingly good experiences in the past, instead of focusing on the good memories, their minds always seem to revert to the bad ones thus making it hard for themselves to move past the “failures” they have had in the past. The past is called the past for a reason; it is past, gone and never to come back again unless you keep bringing it back like cows regurgitate the grass they’ve eaten throughout the day.

As for the present, if you look up synonyms for the word “present” you will find that among them is the word “gift”. In view of this, it is safe to say that the present is called the present because it is a gift to us. This means that every day you wake up and see a new day you have been presented with an opportunity to make a difference.

Many people say that you cannot change the past. What if you were given the chance to make a difference to your past, is there anything you can change? I’ll tell you one thing; every day you live in this world is an opportunity for you to make a difference to your past. What do I mean by this? The past is made up of many yesterdays, whereas yesterdays are made up of past todays. What if you did something today that will change how your yesterday will look like tomorrow? What if every single day you did something positive that would make a difference to the past that you are creating for yourself? I hope this isn’t confusing anyone but the truth is, you can choose to have a different past from today going forward just by doing things differently today. So, instead of dwelling in what has already past, how about you create a better past by doing something different today, and create a new past for yourself?

As I was thinking of how to put across this article today I was reminded of story I once read and probably even shared with you in a past article …

A guy gets into a taxi after a boozy night out and halfway through the journey, he wants to stop and buy some cigarettes. He taps the driver on the shoulder and suddenly the driver screams, swerves across the road and mounts the sidewalk stopping just short of a brick wall.

All was quiet for a few moments and then the driver turns around and says "Don't EVER tap me on the shoulder whilst I'm driving EVER again". The guy who had miraculously sobered up says to him, "I'm sorry, I didn't know it would scare you so much"

The driver replies, "It wouldn't normally but this is my first night as a taxi driver. You see, up until yesterday, for twenty-five years, I was driving a Hearse…” 

In other words, this taxi driver had forgotten he was in a new job and thought that he was still driving dead bodies. The reason he got so scared is because he thought a corpse had woken up from the dead and was now talking to him. He was still living in the past. You might laugh at this guy but a lot of us are like this driver; we bring our past fears, failures and (good and bad) experiences into our present making it hard for us to move to the next level.

“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present…” ~Jan Glidewell. This quote is so true on so many counts.

Many are probably still holding onto broken hearts after disappointing relationships. I don’t mean to be harsh but you know what darling, pick up the pieces of your broken heart, put them together as much as you can and move on because sitting there and wallowing in self-pity will not change the fact that you were heartbroken. However, you can choose to learn from your past mistakes and tread carefully now.

As for that business idea you tried once and failed miserably, that doesn’t qualify you to be a failure in life. The idea failed but you did not fail. You will only fail if you decide never to try something new ever again. Like L. Thomas Holdcroft said, “The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post…” In other words, learn from the past and move on.

Just in case you didn’t know, holding on to past successes can also be a problem too. If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, then you haven't done much today, and like someone said, “don't let yesterday use up too much of today”. Whatever you did yesterday is now in the past and will always be, but you have a new chance today to do something new and something different that might influence all your tomorrows.

So, which shall it be? Will you keep living in the past or will you decide to enjoy the gift of today as you create a great future for yourself and those who look up to you?  Like I always say, only you can answer that question.

This week I leave you with a quote from Edna Ferber that says, “Living in the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causing you to bump into people not going your way...”

Wishing you all a futuristic week.

PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 12th October, 2014, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"

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