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Our pasts make us who we are in the present

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck

 Someone very dear to me is living in the past. Not a conversation between us occurs without him remarking how much he longs for days gone by. 

“I hate my life today,” he often says. “I hate being married. I hate the chronic illness I have. I hate not being able to do the things I want to do. I hate that my family doesn’t get together except at funerals.”

He’s a “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” kind of guy.

Lately, his endless litany of negativism has become a worn out record that I now choose not to play any more than I have to.

I, too, miss the old days where Sundays meant fried chicken and biscuits for the midday dinner and our family came from the four winds to hang out at my grandparents’ mountain aerie eating ice cold watermelon and watching the traffic on U.S. 23 down in the valley.

But as much as I miss the old days, I am reminded how many wonderful things have happened since.

If I went back and changed one iota of my life from 40 years ago, the entire scheme of who I am and what I’ve done would be thrown askew–the Butterfly Effect.

Of course there are things I wish I had done–things I could have done, but my choices then molded the life I have today and even with its little pitfalls, it’s still a wonderful life–warts and all.

Meeting Karon Johnson last week and talking with him about his life and the bumps along the way left me truly in awe.

As I relayed to Tom the interview, I said, “This man is amazing. In spite of the crappy hand he’s been dealt, he’s still smiling and focused on living every moment shroud in the wonderment of life.”

“Sounds like your lede,” my husband said, suggesting the opening paragraph for the story. “But can you say ‘crappy’ in a newspaper?”

As I pondered exactly what I would write, I took a short stroll down memory lane of the people who, like Karon, haven’t had the easiest of lives but yet kept smiling and celebrating each day. 

You know people like that, too. We all do. You see them every day.

Often when our customers leave our office, my co-workers and I turn to one another and say, “That’s a happy person.”

Too often though, we say the exact opposite. So many people, like my friend I mentioned earlier, dwell on the bad aspects of their lives and forget all the good things that have happened. 

Instead of using those negative things as  learning tools, they become the foundation for a miserable life of self pity and unhappiness.

I can’t  imagine living a life filled with self-imposed misery.

The older I get, the more aware I become of my own mortality. Life is truly a vapor and I choose to live the time I have content, happy and grateful.

And part of that contentment has to come from knowing that time passes, people evolve and every single thing that happens to us–good and bad–has direct bearing on our lives today.

Karon Johnson has it right–there are great days and then there are greater days. Nothing in between except how you plan to live with the hand you’ve been dealt and how you decide to let your yesterdays shape your today.

The choice is yours.