Holding On To Old Ills

I had a fascinating conversation with K the other day. We were talking about a blog post by Leo Babuta on his inspiring Zenhabits Blog and we came up with a wonderful analogy for ourselves.

The discussion had been about holding on to old ‘stuff’ and by stuff I mean all the baggage of one’s life. Mr Babuta posits that your life is like a glass and you can fill it with all the stuff from your past, or you can fill it with the things you want for your future. Now, I haven’t put that nearly as elegantly as he did, but that’s the general idea. You can only fit so much ‘stuff’ into your glass, so if you fill it with the hurts and sadnesses from the past, there’s no room for the wonderful possibilities of the future; we either look back or we look forward. It made perfect sense to me.

What we did was to take his wonderful idea and liken it to drinking wine; you have a wine glass and if you have the old, sour wine from yesteryear in it, and you insist on holding on to that wine, any new, fresh wine that you pour on top will be tainted. You won’t want to drink as much of the tainted wine as you would if it were newly uncorked and at it’s best, so there’s wine left in the glass. But because you’re the person who hangs on to the dregs of wine, every time you top up the glass, it taints the new wine. Your past can spoil your future if you hold on to it.

In our lives, we have to empty the old, stale wine, wash the glass and start afresh. Then, every sip is full of possibilities, excitement and freshness. Easy in theory, but developing that analogy has given me a good tool to work on any hankering I have had to hold on to things from the past. I can simply ask myself: is this fresh wine or old, vinegary wine? It’s a really simple test, but incredibly effective… and pertinent to my life.

This new perspective on dealing with the past – and let’s face it, we can’t go back and change the past, so we may as well move on – was particularly brought home to me over the past week. I know people who move like dolphins at play from their past into their future, but I also know people who cling to perceived hurts, slights and injustices as if their lives depended on it. Sometimes we need those mirrors others provide to motivate us to change and I have been given the gift of a mirror that has helped me change – for that, thank you.

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