Life is hard right now. Ten-year-olds are being mercilessly gunned down in their schools. Houses are burning down in unexpected wildfires. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic that has lasted two and a half years and counting. Our brothers and sisters in other countries are being invaded and attacked. Women’s rights in our own country have been reeled back to before the Watergate hearings and Blazing Saddles was released. To what feels like ancient history.
It can be difficult not to focus on the heartbreak and devastation of these events, and to a certain degree we need to put our attention on them so that we can process them, work through them, and do what we can to help the people who are suffering. We also have an obligation to our fellow human beings to stand up for what we believe in, and to keep moving forward instead of turning back the clock and having to fight for basic human freedoms over and over again.
In times like these I find it can be so easy to allow ourselves to get mired down in the grief of it all and let the misery overtake our tendencies toward hope. We must NEVER do that! In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” No matter what is going on in the world around us, we always have hope. Hope for positive change. Hope for better times ahead. Hope for an end to suffering. Hope for peace throughout the world and within ourselves.
How can we hold onto hope? By keeping our eyes looking forward. By keeping our minds focused on what we CAN do, rather than fretting about what is out of our control. Where our eyes go, our minds will follow, so we need to purposefully keep our gaze on the possibilities of the future, for us and for our fellow human beings, and put aside the disappointment and sorrow we feel.
In short, it doesn’t do anyone any good to mourn over the past. We can mourn loved ones we’ve lost, of course, but other than that, there’s no point in exerting effort and emotions on what “used to be.” It can be difficult to accept that things aren’t what they once were, but we have to learn to deal with that fact and keep propelling ourselves forward. I know people who perpetually live in the past, replaying old events, getting just as upset as they got the first time around, and wishing more than anything else that things could have been different. What good does that serve? These people are unable to move forward in their lives, and they often blame other people for their inertia, completely unaware that because the past no longer exists, they are squandering their potential by constantly replaying the old movies inside their heads.
In these times it’s also vitally important to remember that no matter where we are, we are never stuck. Whether it’s in a job, a location, a relationship; we can always make a change to move forward according to what is best for us. Some years ago my family and I weren’t 100% happy where we were living (for a variety of reasons) so we took a leap of faith and moved 2/3 of the way across the country. It was a little scary to leave our established world of friends and colleagues, but I can honestly say that it was the best decision we could have made for each one of us. Making that big move was also a fantastic learning experience for our kids, who were 9 and 10 at the time, as they were able to see what happens when we’re not afraid of creating new opportunities for ourselves. What happens when we consciously examine what can make a life more fulfilling, more satisfying, and happier overall, and then harness our courage to take the steps that will keep us moving forward toward that goal.
You can’t win a race by always looking back over your shoulder, you have to keep your head focused on the finish line. I believe that in order to be our happiest we need to enjoy the present while keeping our eyes and our minds on what lies ahead. The future holds the promise of better times to come, and the hope that we can, and will, make them happen.