Today, with my four bigger boys at school and my youngest small tornado pretending to rest for a few moments, I settled down to do some pretty tedious and unchallenging work. It warranted another direction for my attention, so I put on a video of the father I wish I’d had: Wayne Dyer. (You’re not surprised, are you?)
He was talking about something the equally fabulous Alan Watts had said, describing our ‘Wake’. Not the post-funeral kind, you understand, but of the post-boat variety.
I have always loved the pithy maxim:
Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.
If dwelling on the past makes you unhappy, then stop it. It’s gone. Passed: not just a clever play on words. And whilst happy memories are enjoyable to relive, it can be equally unhealthy to dress them up in brighter robes than your present and wish you were still there, rather than right here where you are now.
Although I may appear to have digressed, it was precisely this point Dr Dyer (and Alan Watts, of course) was making. The wake of a boat trails behind it, no longer a part of it, no longer remotely significant apart from a simple trail denoting where you have once been. You can stand at the back of the boat and watch it, but there seems little point in that, really. After all, if you’re standing at the back, looking out at all that foam and debris, you can’t see where you’re going, can you?
Equally, though, and rather importantly, the wake cannot steer your boat. It cannot power it.
Do you see?
Why do we allow our past to cripple our present?
I have heard Dr Dyer before quoting a counselling session he once took, where his patient was bemoaning the fact that, when a child, her parents had forbidden her to learn to ride a bike.
But the question has to be: what is stopping her learning now?
Instead of complaining about past injustices, hurts, lacks, wants; instead of allowing them to define who we are now, learn the lessons they have taught you, and then let them go, release them, look on them simply as the wake, a geographical marker of where you once were, and learn or, as is often also the case, relearn in a healthier and more positive way.
Nobody powers your boat but you. Nobody. And if you feel you have handed the controls over to someone else, nobody could have handed those controls over but you.
So take them back.
And move forward under your own power, looking straight ahead, feeling the spray on your face, the sun on your skin, and the wind in your hair.
And stop looking over your shoulder.