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How to Coexist with Your Past

Photo by Brooke Cagle

We all have them. Skeletons in the closet, painful memories, less-than-stellar life experiences, grief and pain. It’s part of the human condition and somehow, with the weight of it sitting on our shoulders, we go on. We move forward. How do we do it? How do we coexist with our past?

I was staring down a 90-minute hot yoga class one Saturday morning, still shocked that I dragged myself there on a weekend, and the yogi teaching the class said this:

"There is no past, there is no future, everything happens in the present."

I don’t even know how I got through the yoga class with my mind blown up like it was.

Think about it. There is no past. It’s a place that doesn’t exist. There is no future. How can there be? It hasn’t happened yet. All we have is the here and now. Everything that will happen ever on Earth is happening at the same time and that time is right at the end of this sentence.

So why is it then, that we drag around our past like it’s tied around our waists?

I know why. Because it does exist, in our minds. It’s as real as they can be, in our heads. The past shows up in our dreams, it runs through our brains in the middle of the day and it definitely rears its ugly head when we’re arguing with our partners. So simply saying that you should let the past go and move on is not enough. It’s just not enough to say let it go.

Case in point, my husband and I have been business partners for over a decade. We’ve opened several small businesses together and for the most part, we had a great run. My role in those businesses, among other things, was the financing and accounting of it all. The paperwork. The endless paper shuffling. I did it for years and I was good at it. I am organized and diligent and things got done. I was so good at it, that it became my default role at home, as well. I was in charge of the personal finances, paying the bills, making sure there was money in the account for the mortgage, that kind of stuff.

For years, I was weighed down by the stress of the our business and personal finances. I would agonize over the lack of cash flow in our seasonal business. I would worry about the line of credit that we’d have to pay back. All of that pressure was too much for one person to handle. I grew tired and resentful. I was upset that my husband didn’t feel that pressure, or didn’t show it, at least. I was vocal about it all but the load never seemed to be split in half and shared. I was carrying around that resentment for a long time, even after we closed our businesses. I was troubled by the fact that I was the one trying to make ends meet while he was managing other areas of the business or even relaxing with our kids. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t play. Not when we had credit card bills to cover and interest mounting on a line of credit.

After the dust settled from the close of our businesses, I told myself that I just had to let it go. My hardened feelings needed to ease as this was all in the past and I should just leave it there. It doesn’t exist, after all, and how can it still be affecting me if it doesn’t exist?

This is just one example of what I had been carrying around with me from the past. Things just stick to you, don’t they? Anyone who tells you that you need to just forget about the past and move forward has not really dealt with their past. Or they’re just fooling themselves that they have.

You know what made me feel better? Going back and hashing it all out. I let it fester for way too long and my resentment and the echos of the stress that I felt for years started to affect my mood and my marriage. I started talking about these feelings with my husband. He listened but he had his own version of how things were. His history was different than my history. But instead of letting him talk me out of what I was feeling, I stayed true to how I felt.

That’s how these ‘throw it all on the table and let’s deal with it’ discussions go sometimes. The other person may get defensive or just have a different version of what your reality is. Don’t let them change how you feel about a situation. Stay true to your feelings until you can coexist with them. Own them. I was hurt, I was stressed, I was resentful. I felt that deep within me and I talked about them until I was able to live with them. Then, they dissipate. Then they don’t have power over you. The reverse becomes the norm and you can truly move on.

In order to coexist with our past, we have to think about it and more importantly talk about it until it becomes ok. Because it does exist and many things that happened to us are very, very real. They have a real place and time in our heads and until we’re able to accept that we have to coexist with all of these things, we are not really doing the work that needs to be done to move forward from a better place to an even better one.


Leslie Lynn Nifoussi is a mom of two who thoroughly enjoys her assortment of jobs as a blogger, model, media host, commercial actor and beauty and fashion contributor for HSN. She’s a former small business owner and professional dancer and is eager to share her life’s experiences with you.

Read Leslie Lynn Nifoussi's 'How To Coexist With' Series

4 Ways To Coexist With The Words 'I'm Sorry'

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