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Tears on tombstone: Do not dwell on past

WE HAVE just come out of an election period, marking the end of one era and the ushering in of another.
Elections, after all, are usually of historical significance to any country. They tend to be turning points.
Similarly, our individual lives consist of turning points that define our destiny. I like to think of my life in chunks – with each chunk having major moments and turning points, for better or for worse. One can look at life this way: you are born, you go through childhood, then teen years, and then adulthood.
What are the stand-out moments of your childhood – perhaps events which, in retrospect, you think have had a major impact on the course and development of your life? It could be something you did or did not do, or some decision made for you by your parents, or some event which took place and was perhaps beyond your control. But such is the nature of childhood: we do not make the major choices; they are made for us.
But then when we become teenagers we are responsible for some of our decisions, and all our actions. Not all the major decisions we make are externally induced. Which is why some people have lived with regret even into their adult lives because of one moment of madness or poor decision-making in their teens. There are some decisions you made – some actions you took – in your teenage years that still haunt you today.
But then, to be sure, it does not help to mourn about the past. You might have made some mistakes, but you can still make amends. You can still pick yourself up and move on rather than stay in your teens when you are now an adult. Never get stuck in the past – only learn from it.
It does not help to fret and cry over the mistakes and tragedies of last year. You have entered a New Year and the best you can do is make the best of the New Year. You can use the New Year to make a difference, to create turning points in your life; moments that will define your future.
As the famous philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but lived forwards.” Look back at the past with a view to learning from it; but not to “live” in the past. You must live “forwards”. There are lots of people who fail to move on because they are stuck in the past – the mistakes they made, the wrong turnings they took. They are so focused on the past that they fail to see the future. They end up distrusting the future because of the mistakes or tragedies of the past.
Yet others are so scared and worried about the future that they find solace in their past experiences. Perhaps, as author Chuck Palahniuk says in his work “Survivor”, our mistrust of the future “makes it hard to give up the past”.
I always wonder – whenever I attend a burial at a cemetery – about people who despite going to bury one person, always visit the grave of another loved one, in many cases long buried, and begin to mourn afresh. Those tears on the tombstone may not be bad in themselves, but if they are meant to take the mourner back into the past each time, then they can get the person stuck in the past.
What decisions have you made already this year? What actions do you plan to undertake this year? Will they define or affect your future? Then think about them seriously so you do not look back at 2015 with regret.

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