Painful Memories Belong In The Past
A few days ago, I received a letter from an attorney’s office. The letter informed me that I owed $3,000 to a Property Owner’s Association for assessment fees on a small tract of land in North Georgia. I have not owned that property since the early 1980’s. For some reason, the warranty deed on file was never changed and my name was still on the deed. To settle the matter, I was asked to produce legal documents to support my claim that the property does not belong to me. I panicked a bit, worried that I would not be able to find documents from almost 35 years ago.
I knew there were several old record boxes in our garage and storage room, so my husband and I got the boxes out and began to sift through the contents. There were reminders of fun and precious times in the boxes; hand-made Mother’s Day cards from my children when they were little, their notes to the Tooth Fairy and photographs that made me smile. My old 4H Club project folder from when I was 12 years old was in one of the boxes. I also found old greeting cards and letters from family members and friends. But mixed in with the happy memories were documents and letters that brought back feelings of pain and sadness from some very difficult times in my life.
The painful memories were there in the form of marriage and divorce documents and paperwork that reminded me of past financial struggles. I found copies of distressing letters between my children’s father and me after our divorce. I was reminded of how difficult those years were for all of us.
Digging through more boxes, I found legal documents, death certificates and newspaper clippings from the day my parents and my sister died. For a few moments, I was taken back in time and felt the sharp stab of grief in my heart. The day I suddenly lost half my family, was the most traumatic experience of my life and not an event I want to relive.
What I Learned
At first, I grumbled about the inconvenience of having to produce proof of something that happened so long ago. But, as I went through the boxes, I began to appreciate the opportunity to revisit my past. Without question, I was grateful for the happy memories I unearthed in my search. But I thought it was interesting that I was also thankful for the painful memories. They served as reminders to me of how much I have overcome and grown as an individual. As I read over the old documents and letters I was reminded of all I had been through. I learned so much and became a more accepting and less judgmental person, not in spite of the painful events, but because of them. There are aspects of my past that maybe I could have handled in a better way, but looking back, I know I did the best I could do at the time. That is all anyone can do.
I did find the property related document I was looking for and sent a copy off to the attorney. As I reorganized the boxes and packed them up to go back to the storage room, it occurred to me that revisiting the past had been a good thing. It reminded me that I am wiser, stronger and more forgiving toward myself and others than I used to be. I like who I am today, but I hope as life goes on, I become an even better version of myself.
While revisiting the past, I had the insight that painful memories bring up painful feelings. The good news is that we do not have to bring those feelings into the present. If I had not opened the box or looked at things that brought back unhappy feelings, my mood would not have been impacted. When we keep reliving painful memories, we keep those painful feelings alive. Let them go, so you can have the freedom to live happily today. Happiness is our natural state of being.