The unPacking - Letting Go & Leaving Behind
A few weeks ago, I was going through the plethora of bins on the shelves in the storage room when I noticed a banker’s box buried back in the corner. I grabbed the dusty old box hoping to uncover some long-hidden memories but discovered something completely disappointing instead. Tax returns. Oh happy joy, right?!
But I soon discovered that these weren’t just any tax returns, these were archaic tax returns. Dating all the way back to 1990. The 1990 tax return was housed in a circa 1980s folder and had my maiden name written on it that was clearly scribed by my father. Inside of it was a one-page tax return, claiming the whopping $819.00 I made that year working at the Hy-Vee Bakery donning my hot pink hat that smelled like glazed donuts and was embroidered with “Is this heaven? No, it’s the Hy-Vee Bakery”.
The return also displayed the $48 refund I would have received. I don’t recall getting that refund, but I have to imagine that I spent it on candy from the AM/PM, Frostys and fries from Wendy’s and maybe a Pretty Woman cassette tape…. or Bell Biv DeVoe, who knows. What I do know is that $48 would have gone a long way back then.
But just as soon as I started laughing at discovering this ancient artifact, I found myself asking WHY? Why on earth am I carrying around this useless thing of my past? Why would I hang onto something with such irrelevance? Why did it make through another 30+ years of my life?
And eventually asking myself, what else is in this mess that I need to let go of?
There’s a lot I need to let go of. I can’t carry all of this stuff into my future, I’ve got to leave my past behind. But I’m not just talking about the stuff in my physical possession, but the stuff that’s been taking up my heart and mind space for too long as well.
One of the greatest struggles we can have as humans is letting the past go and actually leaving it behind. I’ve found myself in this situation many a time. On multiple occasions I’ve made the decision to forgive or let something go, only to still keep it packed up in the banker’s box of my mind. I may have tried to let it go but I didn’t truly leave it behind. It’s still hidden in there ready to be unearthed.
This is the stuff that paralyzes us people. When we fail to leave in the past the things that we ultimately desire to let go of, it becomes baggage that we are not intended to carry. It takes up the space we need for personal growth. These useless piles of past struggles prevent us from fully living in the present.
Why do we have a storage room full of useless stuff from the past residing in our hearts and minds?
It really comes down to the same reasons that we don’t get rid of the physical stuff taking up space in our houses:
1) When it comes down to the choice of keeping it or tossing it, we choose to keep it,
2) We don’t even realize that it’s there hiding, or
3) We don’t have anyone helping us get rid of it
So, let’s talk about how we handle each of these:
Keep it or Toss It
If you’ve ever gone through an organization process, you have experienced the turmoil that can surface when choosing to keep something verses donating it or tossing it away. This is why many of us become pack rats, or even hoarders…because making choices to give things up is not easy.
When we are needing to let go the emotional and mental connection to things in our pasts, it is a similar process. It's difficult. But as much as we may not want to admit it, we have a choice in the process. While we may not have the choice to change the past, we do have a choice to remain in it. This is not an easy process I realize, and it doesn’t happen without the right mindset.
The choice to leave the past behind will be ongoing, from the moment you make the decision to let it go to every time it tries to invite itself back in. We have the choice to leave that door shut and focus on the good things residing in us today. Choose to toss it, not keep it.
Discover What’s Hiding
Just like my 1990 tax return, sometimes we don’t even know the things from our past that we are still carrying with us and how that may be affecting how we live our lives in the present. In order to figure that out, we have to go through the process of discovering what’s hiding.
I’ve been going through that process as of late and it’s been amazing what I’ve uncovered. I’ve been battling anxiety for a decent part of my adult life, but for most of that time I didn't recognize it for what it was. I didn’t realize that the irrational fears I had, or my impending doom thoughts were actually anxiety and they stemmed from really ridiculous things in my past.
For instance, in 6th grade, I thought a bully’s mom was going to come kill me in the middle of the night because I flipped her off. For real. I would get up to look out the window every time I saw car lights to make sure it wasn't her. For two years I battled this fear.
What I didn’t realize until later in life is that those two years programmed me to constantly think that way. And it journeyed with me into my later life. But once I was able to discover this, I was able to heal and reprogram myself to think differently. This was a game changer. I can now discard those irrational thoughts and the impending doom when it comes knocking on my door.
If you have things that you are battling now, take the time to try to discover what may be hiding in your past that you are still carrying and do the work it takes to reprogram your mind to think differently.
Don’t Do It Alone
I didn’t get to this place of healing by doing it alone, I had help. Number one, I had God. He’s the ultimate navigator of this journey. His presence covering me gave me the strength and courage to overcome some hard things.
But I also do therapy (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…or tried it again with someone else). It’s been amazing how much I’ve been able to leave in the past through the counseling process. It’s a game-changer and I don’t know what I would do without it. Please, please, consider this on your journey.
I’ve also had help from pastors, mentors, and friends along the way. Bottom-line, it’s important to have people there to not only support you but help you and keep you on task. Don’t do it alone, find someone to help you.
“Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old.” Isaiah 43:18 MEV
I often say, “the old Amanda would never recognize the new Amanda”. This is so very true. And one of the biggest reasons for that has been shedding this past I carried with me for too long. Not carrying that with me makes me a whole lot better in many ways.
I encourage you, take the steps you need to take to not only let go, but truly leave it behind. You will be amazed at what your future will look like without your past in it.
I’m praying for ya.