You Don’t Need To Make Peace, But You Do Need To Move On

2013 August 10

A friend recently ranted to me about all the advice she’d been given about simply letting her issues go and releasing them to the sky like a birthday balloon. How the heck does one actually do this, she wanted to know. Yoga? Therapy? Oprah? Lobotomy?

The truth is that you’re probably never going to be at peace with all aspects of your past. You’ll never feel total acceptance for your parents’ divorce, your brother’s death from leukemia at 19, your ex’s drug addiction, your own sexual assault. These events shaped you and your choices in the moment and in many moments since. You don’t have to make peace with these traumas in order to move on in your life. We all have hotspots in our histories. We all have wounds that no matter how many times we stitch them shut, they just refuse to stay closed. At what point do you decide that you will never resolve your feelings about your grade school bullying in a way that would make Deepak Chopra weep with pride and choose to stop devoting resources to that struggle?

For example, I have a birth defect, which I very rarely if ever talk about. It has resulted in fairly significant degree of hearing impairment and was the impetus for a number of reconstructive (it’s okay if you call ’em “plastic”) surgeries in my childhood, which ultimately delivered less than stellar outcomes. I know this particular circumstance has fed issues I have around trust, rejection, abandonment, disappointing people, etc. I also know that getting caught up in untangling the knotted-up ball of Christmas tree lights that are my feelings around my birth defect is not productive at this point in my life and with my current priorities. Having it sucked. To some degree, it will always suck. I don’t need to embrace it or celebrate it or thank Baby Jesus for giving me this character-building opportunity, because those things may never happen and the time I spend working on getting to that place is time I could spend creating the future I do want. I don’t need to make peace with this congenital quirk, I need to acknowledge the effect it has had on me, recognize how I’ve adapted to it and use this knowledge and understanding to choose a different route from now on. My life and what it has the potential to be isn’t going to wait for me while I embark on a grand time travel journey back to emotional days of yore.

What I’m realizing is that you only need to do enough work to get yourself unstuck and moving ahead. You don’t have to solve the past, you simply have to be okay with understanding that it will likely always be littered with landmines, but you’re committed to learning enough to avoid stepping on them.

The people who seem to have let go of the baggage that once weighed them down may not have made peace with it, but they did choose to move on from it.

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