I have a tendency to look in the wrong places for direction. I use my mirrors, but I don’t use my mirrors for a revealing time of self-analysis. For example, glancing at the side mirror of my car to determine if it is safe to make a lane change. Instead, I stare into the rear-view mirror. I recently found myself in a situation where I was surrounded by beautiful scenery, awesome friends, exciting experiences and I was lost in thoughts about situations from my past. I was missing 90% of what joy and happiness I could’ve taken from that moment. I’ll share a few “reflections” on staring backwards while moving forwards.
I am realizing that this “rear-view mirror” mindset only allows me to look at a reflection of my past. A reflection is not an accurate view. They are frequently molded, bent and twisted. My view of the past is strongly shaped by my emotional state when these past events took place.For example, during times when I was desperate for attention, situations that brought attention (whether healthy or not) were felt as a positive experience. The desire to be noticed is a real and valid emotional need. But my choice to meet this need in ways that were often unhealthy or harmful to myself is overlooked in the “rear-view” mirror.
Missing the current moment.
Sometimes my attention is SO devoted to staring at reflections of the past that I miss what could be happening in the present moment. In an effort to “see a sign” or “learn a lesson” I miss out on healing, rebuilding and useful situations that help me grow and develop. It becomes so difficult to communicate very simple and deep human expressions of love towards another person if our focus is elsewhere. Or what about the great sensation of feeling a warm pacific breeze blow through your hair as you breathe a deep breath healthy and fed. (even if that means eating a worm or grasshopper in Thailand) There are many cliched statements about living in and enjoying the moment. There is a reason so many statements meant to inspire this choice have been written.
Missing the future.
When I am driving down the road and I take a moment to look in the mirror for a 1/2 second. The person in front of me slams on their brakes or I drive directly through a hole in the road. This potential danger I searched for in the mirror becomes much less important than the immediate one in front of me. I can give myself much needed time to prepare and react to dangers ahead if I am willing to keep my eyes looking forward. It is not only about dangers in front of me, but also positive goals, achievements, and purpose in life.
Potential dangers in “waiting for the future”
There is a threat also of only dreaming about life in the future as well. For example thinking that life will begin only after….. I get a new job. I graduate. My divorce is final or I have a wife, two kids, a dog and a white picket fence. (I hope I can have a dog and wife one day, not sure which one should become part of my life first) Standing still waiting for the future can create an additional “blind-spot.”
Reflecting on the past can be a very helpful and useful part of working through some painful experience. It also helps our understanding of why we feel what we feel today. But focusing too much in the rear-view mirror makes me miss out on the beautiful scenery currently around me. Not to mention potential potholes in the road ahead. Time to see what lies on the horizon, be present and enjoy the moment I am currently living in.