Antiques. Classic bookstores. Vintage shops. This world has a fascination with the past. Sometimes, digging into the crates of former styles and trends can be entertaining.
What do you do, though, if it’s damaging?
The other day, I found a shirt in my dresser that I wanted to wear. I’ve had it for several years – a summery, ivory shirt with flowers painted on it and lace trim. Just before I put it on, I noticed a few small rips in the fabric, each of them in places that could not be repaired.
This only meant two things:
- keep the shirt and conceal the rips by wearing jackets, sweaters, and the like over it
- throw the shirt out and find something new
It sounds silly, right? Why would I keep something that’s clearly past its prime? Well, we do this every day.
This isn’t like paying to see the ruins of Ancient Rome or what remains of Stonehenge. This is about the relics we keep in our homes, hearts, and minds. We stay in dead, dysfunctional relationships longer than we should. We continue to eat unhealthy foods long after doctors tell us that we’re slowly killing ourselves. We remain loyal to ties with systems, careers, friends, and traditions long past their usefulness. Translation: in all of these situations, we try to “salvage the shirt” and hide the torn places. These are indeed the ties that bind, but what are they binding us to?
The longer you stay in an unfruitful place, the better the chances that you become like your environment. Life doesn’t care about your sentimentality or reluctance to adapt when the going gets tough. Change is like an inconsiderate houseguest with no end date to their visit. It demands the best of everything you have while giving only a new normal to you in return. Still, you have the ability to decide what to do with everything being presented to you.
If you’re having trouble letting something or someone go, determine whether or not you’re always looking at the past of it to justify the present. For example:
- If you won’t try to vacation somewhere new, is it because of who used to visit with you or an experience you had there?
- If you want to get your first or another college degree but you’re scared to try, is it because of a failed attempt before or the potential discomfort of returning to the classroom?
- If you’re in a long-term, dead-end relationship, do you stay because you’re worried about being alone or because the relationship has defined you more than you realized?
In the end, my shirt became the prettiest item in the trash bin yesterday. Had I not been distracted by my desire to keep it, I would’ve noticed the problems sooner. Like anything else in life, though, once you see something for what it is, there’s no going back. Something tells me we’ll all be making these kinds of observations a lot more often.
To the Journey,
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