I stood in the middle of my office feeling completely overwhelmed again. As I mentioned in my post Just Do One Thing, I’m completely re-doing my office. The closer I get to being finished the harder it gets. Now I’m dealing with all those things that I don’t really want to get rid of, but don’t have a place for anymore.
As I stood there looking disgusted my husband came in and asked what was wrong. As I explained how overwhelmed I was, he reminded me of how much progress I had already made. “In our 20-plus years of marriage” he said, “I’ve noticed something about you. You tend to only look at the present and future, and you don’t look at what’s behind you.”
He was reminding me of how far I had come in my office, but then he said, “You do that with how you’re doing with your Fibromyalgia too. You always forget the end of 2012.”
He’s absolutely right. I do tend to live in the present and future. It’s served me well in many ways. I tend to look at ways to make life better now, and I don’t spend a lot of time mourning the “old me.” I have struggled with my ‘new normal’ – more than I like to admit sometimes – but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about ‘the good ole days.’
Living in the present and looking forward to the future can be helpful, but sometimes it can be just as helpful to look back.
As I said in my post Lessons from the Grandpa Tree and Measuring Progress with Fibromyalgia, progress is not linear. Because flares and co-morbid conditions can make us better or worse from one day to the next, it’s often hard to feel as if we’ve made any progress at all. In fact, sometimes we may even feel we’ve taken some steps backward.
Looking back at where we’ve been can give us a more objective look at how we’re really doing.
We don’t have to rely on our feelings; we can see the actual markers that show where we are today in comparison to where we were at an earlier time.
For example, when I look back at 2012, what I remember most is that I went from being a strong, active person to someone who was practically bedridden. When I compare my day-to-day life now with how I was living then, it’s easy to see how far I’ve come. I just can’t always feel that in the moment.
Looking back can also help us see our way forward.
When we look back, especially if we’ve documented our journey, we can use the information we’ve gained so far to help us know how to move forward. As we look at our records, we can ask ourselves
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- Is there anything that seemed to be helping but I stopped? (You know, those things we start, but fail to make a habit, and eventually they fall by the wayside.)
- Is there anything I didn’t try that might be worth looking into?
We definitely don’t want to spend a lot of our time looking backward. The past is gone, and we can’t change it. We also don’t want to spend so much time mourning our ‘other life’ – our ‘pre-illness life’ – that we can’t enjoy the present.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from it though. We can be encouraged when we look back and see where we’ve made progress, whether it’s physical progress, a change in attitude, or learning acceptance, etc., and we can use the lessons of the past to help us live full lives regardless of our circumstances.
Do you ever look at the past to gauge progress or plan your next steps in your self-care plan? Please share!