|I recall a very depressed lady whose marriage had recently been pronounced dead. Over intervening months, she regressed to a point where she could barely function.
“How do you see the future?” I asked. Her response was a bit startling: “I don’t see the future.” This was unimaginable to someone who often visualizes the future.
I responded: “Okay, if you don’t see the future at all, what DO you see?” “All I see is the past.”
I then asked: “If all you see is the past, exactly where do you see it?”
With a tone implying I should know, she said: “Right here. In front of me.” That’s when I realized she had been backing blindly into her future with eyes fixated on the past.
I asked: “Have you ever thought about rotating your timeline 180 degrees, so the past is behind you and the future ahead of you?”
“No, never thought about it.”
I replied: “Are you willing to give it a try?”
With assurance she could always go back to the old way (the past in front of her), she mentally rotated her timeline 180 degrees, so the past was behind her and the future straight ahead.
She then allowed a compelling vision to float up from a spot on her timeline representing “future,” projected herself into that vision, memorized each nuance and brought back with her into the present certain inspiring memories from what is to come.
Things started changing for the better. During our final session, she reminded me of our initial conversation, when she haltingly rotated her time-line and reluctantly put the future ahead of her. She summarized its importance by claiming: “That particular day became the last miserable day of the first half of my life.”
I’m thinking of someone else whose mantra was: “Things just can’t get any worse.” After hearing that same phrase once too often, I made a therapeutic assignment of listing things he could do to make things worse. “Why would I want to do that?!” he spewed in frustration. I replied: “Just trust me on this.”
So, during his next visit he presented his how-to-make-things-worse list, which included such self-defeating actions as: “isolate myself even more, always look on the negative side, continue telling myself people are no damned good and the future looks bleak,” etc.
Asking what he learned from this, he said: “I learned things really could be worse.” “What else did you learn?” “Well, if I would just reverse those same actions, I would probably get better.”
There’s another fellow who went through some unbelievable suffering — five times he endured thirty-nine lashes, three times beaten with rods, once pelted with stones, three times shipwrecked, once spent a night and day in the open sea, another time was robbed and left for dead, endured days without sleep, food or water while cold and naked. He wrote to some friends: “I don’t have it all together, but there’s one thing I do. I leave the past behind and, with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead, I go straight for the goal.” (Philippians 3:13).”
Try imagining what others must be going through. One day this post-Christmas week it took at least 25 minutes just to exchange two shirts I received as a gift. Being the only customer at that moment, I had the full and undivided attention of a very conscientious new employee who was trying to do everything perfectly. The Manager finally intervened and showed him a quick and easy way to make the exchange. The new employee thanked me for being so patient, but he didn’t realize the time had moved quickly as I occupied myself vividly imagining what must have been going through his mind struggling to get things just right. Empathy actually helped me cope with waiting! Try it when you’re in line at the Winn-Dixie behind someone arguing over the expiration date of a $1 discount coupon. Think intercessory prayers toward the cashier who’s just doing her job and the customer whose finances are so fragile he’s freaking out about holding onto every dime.
Oh, and one other thing — forgive EVERYBODY. I cringe whenever I hear: “I just can’t forgive.” “Can’t” is an interesting contraction of “can” and “not.” You can or you can not, but either way, you can. Truth is you always have the power to say: “This is NOT how my story will end.”
I recently shared a brief poem with a bright and sophisticated friend, wondering if she would find it too simplistic. Instead, she insisted these words by Lauretta Burns spoke to the heart of her problem:
As children bring their broken toys
with tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God,
because He was my friend.
But then, instead of leaving Him
in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
with ways that were my own.
At last, I snatched the pieces back and cried,
“How could You be so slow”-
“My child,” He said, “What could I do?
You never did let go.”
It’s a new year.
Time to let go?