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  • Writer's pictureFran Braga Meininger

Looking Back to See the Future

Looking back on the path that brought me here, to this precise moment in this exact spot, I realize how each seemingly insignificant decision, every choice I made and the turns I took along this journey, mattered.

I’ve always intuitively known that, I suppose. But now, for some reason I feel irresistibly compelled to look back in retrospect, to examine why and how I decided each one of those options and to learn from their outcome.

Like everyone, there have been those experiences that stand out, leaving me changed, sometimes for the better but not always. Those moments that transformed me from who I was to who I became, emotionally charged as most were, they formed my character and determined my outlook on the world.

Some came upon me through no fault of my own, by betrayal, loss and missed connections, but many were the result of my doing. Both are significant and all are worthy of evaluation, if for no other reason than to understand for myself the patterns and perspective I embrace and how they impact me.

As I grow older, it surprises me how important the past becomes. Not by way of reminiscing old times, although that does bring some sweet smiles and a tender longing to my heart when I indulge myself in those memories, but what I seek now is an understanding of who I am and what contributed to the woman I am now. But also, I find myself hoping an examination of the past and the decisions I made, may guide me through the present and ultimately the future.

I see patterns, they’re obvious, glaringly evident in their influence on my choices. So many times, I have judged the present circumstance through the lens of past experiences unable to break the brain stem reaction of fight or flight. I couldn’t sit with discomfort long enough to see what is on the other side. So often over the years, I’ve loaded my car with what would fit and headed out, again, with no plan but to leave what caused my discomfort behind. It was, of course, a temporary solution to an external stimulus, but for the most part the source remained unsettled because it originated in me and my perspective, the one thing I can never leave behind.

I can still see the scars of the heartbreaks that left their mark on my heart and my mind. They seem more visible and disturbing whenever I find myself moving through a period in my life that threatens to leave me with a new wound and my reaction is to run, yet again. But now, being older with some modicum of maturity to buffer my reaction, I am learning to pause, to wait before I react and to consider that some circumstances can’t be orchestrated.

I know I’m not alone. Many struggle with the same patterns that fail to bring about the best result but still get repeated over and over as though they magically might work this time. The chain is hard to break. It’s what we know and even though it doesn’t deliver the desired result, it’s familiar and less threatening. The challenge is to strike out in another direction, or perhaps, learning something even more difficult to master, to do nothing, at least for a time while life swirls around you. To learn to wait and get your bearings and feel more secure before stepping out.

I now see the wisdom of a short time out before reacting, to let my thoughts settle and my emotions cool before striking out, seeking a defensive position or an escape route. I just need to pause through the angst, find a way to distract myself long enough for the urges to subside, to move beyond the unreasonable fear and anticipation of the impending catastrophe and realize, everything will be all right.

So, what does this all mean, and why does it matter? I’m frankly not completely sure. Like many very important lessons, it takes time and intention to divine their worth. But I’m learning finally that in the quiet of an idle mind, sitting contently listening to the sound of a gentle rain, much of what I struggle to uncover will reveal itself. Maybe that’s the secret, the lesson I am meant to learn; stop pushing, pulling, running and demanding. Let go of the struggle and let life offer what it has in store for me. Perhaps by relaxing my grip on control and breathing through the tension of the unknown just long enough to get to know it, rather than moving away, pushing through or going around what seems to be in my way, those moments, if thoroughly experienced, may deliver more insight into the choices yet to come than all the retrospection in the world.

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