Do you ever feel held back by the past? Plagued by hurtful reminders of things done or undone, said or unsaid? Me too. That’s why this week’s ABCs of a Purposeful WIP message is about Yarding Yesterday.
To yard something means to confine it to a restricted area. Like the fences we construct to keep our family and pets safe, yarding yesterday is important not only for protection but also for making progress. Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remember or reminisce about the good times, and it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t deal with the not-so-good ones, but it does mean that we shouldn’t dwell on them. Progress doesn’t live in the past, it lives in the present. And so should we. We cannot grow, we cannot progress if our mind is still gnawing on or scolding us for something that happened ten years ago.
Now, I am absolutely speaking from experience here as I am a recovering ruminator. I have a habit of replaying and rethinking through past events and past conversations until the memories become fuzzy and grainy like an overused VHS tape. I have a tendency to dissect and analyze every piece, every part, every word. I search in vain for meaning or explanation or answers as if in the process I can manipulate the past. But in truth all this ruminating does is suck the joy right out of the present.
This was one of the biggest obstacles I faced in completing my novel manuscript as attempting to create a well-paced and logical story while my mind was constantly assaulted with any number of shoulda, coulda, woulda or wish-I-hadn’ts from days long gone was like trying to drive straight ahead while looking in the rearview mirror: a near impossibility.
Naturally, we all carry some extra weight from the past. Our regrets and mistakes and those painful reminders of times when we didn’t behave as our best selves and hurt someone else as well as those times when we were the recipient of someone else’s unkind behavior. But even more detrimental than the initial event or action (or lack thereof) is the pain we continue to inflict on ourselves and sometimes on others by not letting go.
It’s no question that life is hard and given the choice each and every one of us would no doubt prefer to run through it unscathed, our hearts and bodies and minds fully intact and free from all wounds and scars. Unfortunately, that’s not a decision we get to make. What we can decide, however, is what to do with the memories of those scars and wounds. Do we hold on to them, dragging them around like an extra, unusable limb that just weighs us down and holds us back? Or do we learn from them, grow from them, and step away from them as better, wiser people?
If you’re feeling stuck in your life—in old mindsets, in unhealthy habits—or you just can’t seem to make any headway toward that goal you’ve been wanting to achieve for years and years, then my advice to you is this: Go ahead and sift through the memories that resurface most often. Gather the lessons learned, offer forgiveness wherever necessary—especially to yourself—but then cut the rest loose. Yard your yesterdays. Protect your present and propel your progress by keeping the past where it belongs.