Thursday, 27 November 2014

(II) Past… Future

“Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past; 
what to enjoy of the present; 
and what to plan for the future”
~ Arnold H. Glasgow


Who you were, 
who you are, 
and who you will be 
are three different people”
~ Robert Tew

Earlier this fall I found myself face to face with part of my past. While standing next to my present. And I introduced them.

Walking into this situation I had little idea of what to expect or how the interaction would unfold. I found myself wondering how much to explain and prepare ahead of time. Was anything really necessary? What would add to the potential awkwardness? What would aid in increasing comfort? I found myself wondering how much to explain and debrief afterwards. Was anything really necessary? What would take away from the ease and comfort found after the initial awkwardness? What would enhance the lingering positive feelings of having moved on well?

In the weeks that followed pieces of the past began to surface. For both of us. Tidbits that naturally came up in conversations. Longer explanations given to specific curious questions. Lingering experiences, thoughts, fears that were reflections of the past yet tumbled out in conversations about the present. Not so much in a “let-me-tell-you-a-story-of-who-I-am” kind of way. Rather in a seemingly natural “I-want-to-know-who-you-are” kind of way.

I have wondered before about my reasons for telling certain stories of my past. About releasing the judgment I had placed on myself, living in the here and now, and creating space for new stories to begin.

I have wondered if it is truly necessary to tell all the stories of the past. Is the “ex-talk” a vital part of any new relationship? Do new friends need to know about old friends? Are previous struggles and pains –or even successes and gains- important pieces to share when learning to know one another here and now?

I don’t have concrete answers for those questions. Except that I find myself adding to the list. Questions linking past to future:
Can you truly know someone, without knowing where they came from?
Is it wise to begin to think about a future with someone, without knowing their past?
How much and what of someone's past is helpful to know in order to build a future with them?
And when is an appropriate time to share those pieces of the story?

I sometimes notice my mind wandering to questions that I do not ask aloud. Because I'm not yet ready to know the answer. Because I don't know if they are answers I am entitled to… yet. Or ever. Because I don't know if I am ready to respond to similar questions. And so I question the questions.

Exploring others’ thoughts on the topic, there seems to be no real consensus. Some believe the past is very important; others’ not so much. Others feel it depends – on the current relationship; on the parties involved, their expectations and ability to accept and/or forgive; on the relevance of the past stories and the impact they may have on the present and potential future. I think I tend to lean towards the later. I lean towards ~

~ because I suppose in some ways it shouldn’t matter so much whether it matters. If I can trust the seemingly natural “I-want-to-know-who-you-are” process that has proven itself thus far, then the relevant pieces from the past may continue to tumble out in conversations about the present; about the future that will eventually take care of itself anyway. Perhaps they are important questions to question every now and then. And perhaps in between the answers, it is more important to simply be present.


Juanita said...

Beth Ann....I've often thought of these words by Rainer Maria Rilke in my own times of "questions"--
"...have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
Blessings on this new road...

Beth Ann said...

Thank you so much for reminding me of this quote! I had completely forgotten it - but it is one that I reflected on a lot, I think during my university years.
Funny how these types of things seem to come back when we need the reminder most - and for me in this moment it is a reminder of how far I've come; how much anxiety I used to hold about "the unknown"; and how I didn't even notice, until re-reading this quote, that I had let a lot of that go (or at least am able to manage it better) and can actually look forward to the moment when "the unknown" will be revealed or discovered.
Thank you for sharing!